698 had the oldest…

I was inspired by a recent Facebook post by shipmate Nate Neely who thought a meme stating “Join the U.S. Navy and work with yesterday’s technology, tomorrow!” was entertaining. As a result, I thought of an appropriate application to the USS Bremerton when I served on her from 1983-1986.

A decal from the Badfish’s Decommissioning banquet, designed by shipmate and sonarman Rich Crombie


The AN/BQQ-5 was an advanced technology sonar suite, a digitally processed system built, primarily by IBM, that incorporated many of the sensors and analog components made by Raytheon, Hughes and other manufacturers.

The IBM based Q-5 sonar system received raw data from multiple hydrophone arrays similarly to its predecessor, the AN/BQS-13, whose game changing upgrade was the transducer filled spherical array housed in the bow dome. The Q-5 took advantage of digital processing to provide several modes of operations, outputting to three identical operator stations for both multimode capability as well as redundancy. This gave the Q-5 the ability to integrate former stand alone pieces of sonar classification equipment used on early submarine classes. Along with enhanced digital audio and analog audio options, the Q-5 offered a variety of CRT based display options.

“AN/UYK-7 Computer”Control Display Units (CDCs) in a LAB environment (source: americanhistory.si.edu)

I heard back in the day, in its original proposed designs the Q-5 was not equipped with headset audio. To that Pollyannish limitation, any fleet sonarman would say, “You must be out of your mind.”

The Q-5 did have the trademark waterfall displays, which under the dark blue “mood” lights of a quiet sonar shack (back when 688s had real sonar shacks) were the most distinctive attraction for visitors to sonar who needed a nature break from the rigid environment of piping, valves, electrical conduits, green paint, commonly found in the rest of the boat.

A Q-5 waterfall display similar to the ones in 1983-1986, sometimes, if you were lucky, you could come into sonar and listen and “see” the whales nearby (source: pbs.org) Imagine six of these big screens in a darkened room with blue lights and 5 or 6 sonarmen.

THE UYK-7 – Origins stemming from 1957

At the heart of the Q-5 sonar was the systems mainframe computer, the “brains” of the system. Originally designed to virtually flawless operation with the IBM 360, the Navy opted to substitute the IBM mainframe with a stalwart computer whose design origins can be traced back late 1957 (ethw.org). The substitute computer was called the AN/UYK-7,  which began winning government contracts late in 1967 (ethw.org).

Aboard 698, the UYK-7, affectionately known among sonarmen as the “JUNK-7”, also gracing our makeshift lyrics to Olivia-Newton John’s hit “Let’s get Physical” with “Let’s get Digital (Listen to my UYK talk).”

Olivia says, “Let’s Get Physical” (source: yourworkoutbook.com) No, we say,  “Let’s get Digital”

The UYK-7 was built by Sperry-Univac and was controlled by a manual interface that is commonly mounted detached from the mainframe. Conducting diagnostics on the computer required extensive training in machine language to run maintenance and to operate. A good human memory was critical in doing any operations quickly with the system underway since without it, no Q-5 sonar signals are being processed and that presents a hazardous condition, especially in a tactical situation. The UYK-7 came with small quick reference handbooks that were often useless under stress.

The main frame itself contained a CPU unit, an IO Controller and two types of memory in huge Army/Navy bomb proof spec units. Memory could be either a magnetic core non-volatile read only that would survive without power and  a DDM (double density “film”) volatile memory that was the working area for processing the 360 degree data coming in from the spherical, hull and towed array sensors.

One thing was for sure, it looked like a computer that could feasibly take a liberal beating and keep on ticking.

A two bay model of the AN/UYK-7 main frame computers made by Sperry-Univac. A legacy of mil-spec related development from the late 1950s. (source: collection.arck-project.org) The BREMERTON’s original sonar system used only one.

By 1983, there were several revisions of the IBM system, there was even a “Q-6” used on the Ohio Class missile submarines that had all the bells and whistles a sonar needed when your main task is meant to be a far away from anything as possible, which is not the case with a fast attack. There were already major revisions to the Q-5 by the time I reported to Bremerton: the Q-5A and Q-5B and the Q-5C, all of which used multiple UYK-7’s to provide advanced processing capabilities,  but the USS Bremerton SSN-698, from its beginnings and beyond 1986 was blessed with not 2… not 3… not 4 but an awe-inspiring ONE UYK-7.


Q-5 FY-79  The Cadillac of Q-5 Sonar Systems

The USS Bremerton, the fastest nuclear fast attack submarine in the U.S. Navy was equipped with the oldest seagoing Q-5 afloat.

I’ve had a discussion with Jeff Marcey, the other Advanced Q-5 tech who served from 1982-1986, and we disagree which serial number the 698’s Q-5 had. He thinks it was A-1, I think it was A-3, possibly A-4.  What we both agree on is the Bremerton’s Q-5 sonar system was original equipment on the USS Los Angeles – SSN 688 and on the LA, it ran so terribly, it was ripped out and revamped at IBM, in time for installation on Bremerton.

There are some thoughts about where A-1 and A-2 were. A-1 could have been a prototypes in IBM Manassas, Virginia,  and A-2 a trainer at Fleet ASW Training Center in San Diego. But I would have to dig around to confirm. That’s why I tend to remember 698 having A-3, as it was stamped on the IBM ID plate on the Sonar Supervisor Console in sonar.

If you think being the oldest sonar system in the fleet was bad, think again. Called the AN/BQQ-5 FY-79, It didn’t garner a letter designation, but it was the purest form of the original design and unhindered by the revisions that caused certain un-reliabilities. Thanks to the sonar division and a command who understood the value of submarine sonar, the Bremerton had the one of the best operating Q-5s in our squadron. We called it “The Cadillac of Q-5s” being the oldest cat in the neighborhood.

698 was a fast boat, the fastest in 688 history, and she had her sensor technology pushed to the limit. Uncle SAM got his money’s worth.

Vintage Decal available free with a SASE (click image to link)

In a large team of talented and skilled sonarmen, I do not hesitate to give Jeff Marcey credit for his focused, skilled work, and technical leadership on the Q-5, a credit to his father who made the pre-Navy Jeff try to fix any broken machine or appliance they could find.  Jeff was one of the savviest sonar technicians ever to don a pair of dolphins, who sacrificed a lot of qualification time to help ready the Q-5 for the performance she ultimately was capable of.  With an attrition rate of 50% in his Advanced Q-5 Sonar Maintenance Training Course pipeline it was like the BUDS of sonar training, but he survived the very high standards the Navy had for the first “209” Maintenance Courses. Nevertheless, it took a lot of team work to straighten the Bremerton’s Q-5 out, and it does take a good team of sonarmen to maintain a big system, to operate it properly, to treat it right, and to keep it functioning well.



A fast attack is equipped with several sonar systems aside from the Q-5. Most of these systems fell under the care of the “Space Techs”. These sonar technicians learned their skills in the Navy’s Space Maintenance program where they became experts in these accessory equipments. Most of these systems were carryovers from the 637 Class and were updated versions of analog-component based systems with solid state upgrades. It was said that, by and large, the Space Maintenance techs were better electricians due to the nature of their equipment.



Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) was the name of the silent game and the Bremerton was destined to grab her share of the quiet glory. Successful U.S. Navy submarine operations helped bring an end to the “first” Cold War.

Between 1983 through 1986, with the FY-79, Bremerton was awarded two Navy Unit Citations, Two Battle “E”s, Three Sea Service awards, and the Expeditions Award. This does not include her exploits coming from Groton to Pearl and other operations between 1981 through 1982 which I cannot personally attest to. I’ll let the Bremerton plankowners, under the command of CAPT. Thomas H. Anderson, tackle that one.


During my service time, Bremerton had the honor of serving under two Commanding Officers, CAPT Douglas S. Wright and CAPT Alan R. Beam, whose sub-driving styles matched our operations very well. Sonar also served with two fine and cosmically different sonar chiefs, Ric May and Master Chief Bill Brehler. In less than a 3 year ride, the officers and crew had the privilege of being involved in a wide spectrum of ASW related operations in which the Q-5 FY-79 sonar system proved to be extremely capable from end to end.

So Nate, yes, we’ll take on all comers with yesterday’s technology tomorrow.



Feature image source: “AN/UYK-7 Computer” is from ithistory.org

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698 Reunion Rap

As of February 2023, the there is no expected “major” 698 reunion scheduled for this year.
Having said that… here’s some thoughts off the top of my head…
The wide world of creating a reunion is open to any anyone who has the time, drive and the initiative. There have been some successful reunions organized in the past by a variety of shipmates and this could be a good opportunity for others to step up with ideas for a reunion.
Reunions by Connectability
There is no one way to organize and set the specs on an alumni gathering. A reunion can be anything from meeting with one shipmate, which requires little preparation, to a mass gathering of 100 that can be a passionate ordeal unless you are a professional event planner.
Groups and group ideas I’ve seen or have heard of  in the past  may be a small group that gets together just because they are a really tight circle and they gather every couple years in a place like Las Vegas, or a gathering for a camping and/or fishing trip, someone has access to a cool venue and invites their shipmates, maybe it’s a call to those who served during a particular year(s), someone mentioned an overnighter on a diesel boat, some have even called for participants on a particular WestPac, or under a certain COs.  The possibilities can be quite endless. 
Veteran Activity: Inside a U.S. Army Airborne Association chapter —
There was an army association group I was involved in, the 11th Airborne Division had a national organization and then there would be all kinds of chapters which tended to be regional. My dad was involved in starting a chapter along with some of his fellow troopers who lived in the San Francisco bay area. They named their chapter after their commanding general in WWII who happened to live nearby.
In the early 1980s, about 10 veteran soldiers got together, they ranged in rank from Lt. General to private, and became the first charter members. They were presented aide-de-camp pins from Lt. General Joseph M. Swing in a ceremony at his home in San Francisco.  Thus began their official Lt. General Joseph M. Swing Chapter of the 11th Airborne Division Association.
Once they went down that road, there’s a lot of meetings and record keeping for the non-profit status requirements. I do not think this format lends itself to individual submarine alumni groups but it was interesting to see how involved they were monument creation, community events, service events at the local VA hospital, parades, and giving talks at schools. Every year they would attend the Division reunion, a few I’ve been to, so it was quite organized and part of their lifestyle.
Their format would be most liken itself to the USSVI , where several 698 shipmates have taken leadership and membership roles within that organization.
There was also a renown Airborne sponsored event near Monterey, CA in Marina called Maggie’s Drop-In, named after “Colonel” Martha Raye, the patriotic entertainer who was awarded an honorary Green Beret for her support of soldiers during the Vietnam War. She would make her appearance at the annual and that was a popular gathering for all airborne soldiers and their families. It was highlighted by a massive BBQ and a parachute jump by by a special Army unit. You guys would have had a blast there, I’m sure. Being a submariner, the airborne guys I would meet would almost invariably say something to the effect of, “There’s no &%$#*@ way you’d get me on a submarine.”
Planning Basics – Leadership and Accountability
Planning an event or setting the criteria for who is going to show up will have a lot to do with whoever is willing to call the shots and take on the mantle of organizing a team to put an event together. It really becomes the head organizer’s call and just becomes his prerogative as the lead. (Remember, we are not a monolithic national organization and like the Silent Service, we are all volunteers and often applying our limited resources to the task).
The head organizer or reunion committee, should best understand his/their limitations in regards to time, energy and the venue limitations. It’s a real commitment and more so the larger it gets.
Planning a large event requires a few more hats and budgeting the necessary time to be responsible for broader planning, communication, decisions and execution.
Major events necessarily require a more exhaustive organizing and planning just because it is in effect an open to all who ever served on 698, with considerations for family involvement, and a wide age range of people participating, working hotel accommodations, facilities, catering or working with restaurants with private rooms  – sadly, it’s a bit more complex than getting together at a nice watering hole, most reminiscent of the days when all we could at the spur of the moment take off for the patio lounge of choice to watch an awesome sunset… and then six or more hours later, weave our back to the base and hit the rack and hope you didn’t have duty the next morning (Those were the days, my friends, we’d thought they never end…).
Shipmate Psychology 101
It’s understandable that shipmates gravitate towards those they shared their personal experiences on the boat with, that’s natural and more easily organized.
Some ideas for reunion spots ideas that have popped up so far that are not 698 specific (Pearl, Bremerton, Groton, San Diego) have been
Charleston SC, Little Rock, and Indianapolis.
I bet there’s a Texan out there that would have some wild idea.
I saw two enthusiastic shipmates call for Olangapo.
Obviously, there are ongoing private gatherings of shipmates throughout the country getting together as life permits.
In discussions with previous reunion organizers involved with the INACTIVATION and DECOM reunions (held in Bremerton in 2018 and 2021 which were host to over 100 people on each occasion) our eyes are set on the boat’s “50th Anniversaries” (that’s plural)  to be held in Groton, at least once, in either 2026, 2028 , and/or 2031 (those are special years for 698). Some information has been gathered already in regards organizing an event there by an industrious plankowner 698 TM/SS.
Groton, Connecticut offers attractions no matter who served on 698 or when. This includes SUB School, SUBASE, SHIPYARD, the local hangouts, all able to elicit your memories of your proud service, the camaraderie of your shipmates, and the pure essence of your introduction to the Silent Service.
In regard to USSVI, their annual is in Arizona August 28-Sep2 (about) you can check their website. In lieu of a 698 National Organization (of which there is nothing of the sort), the USSVI can be a surrogate and arrange with your circle to meet at these events.
The CA 130 Bremerton group, once a regularly gathering group of the cruiser’s officers and crew and whose roster included several 698 guys , is no longer meeting, as far as I know. Sadly, Time takes its toll. Let us know if you heard anything different.
Their hopes that the submariners would help takeover the organization did not work out, but to no ones fault. If we look more closely, there are probably many demographic differences between a cruiser (larger crews) of an older generation with less distractions and a submarine crew (with less sailors) growing into the age of technology with every possible distraction known to mankind. 
Nevertheless, the CA-130 sailors, hats off to them, they managed to have a viable group for a very long time.
Getting the Word Out
There are some generic reunion websites out there, you are free to use them. As for this website, I can help make announcements. A non-social media website like this one helps to connect with those who are not members of the various social media apps.
Do you have any event organizing experience and would like to be involved in future reunions?
Your Vision of a Reunion
What are your ideas for a reunion or a good venue? What does your vision of a gathering look like?

Please comment below or send email to:

EMAIL: bremertonreunion.alumni@gmail.com


Copyright © 2019-2023 bremertonreunion.net



Photos and Images

Bremerton Captain’s Chris Lindberg, Alan Beam ((CO#3), and Tom Anderson, plankowner and CO #1
Front: Martin “Bubba ” Russell, Joel Walton, Donald Jones, Tom McPhillips. Back: Dave Morris, Conrad Bilgrien, Frank Hamilton
Bobby Schmidt and Greg Carroll
Bill Patterson, Juan Acosta and Joel Walton
Dave “SpIzZ” Withers, Chris Friesen, Jim Baker, and Marty Russell
John Brunkalla, and Tim Payne. Back: Conrad Bilgrien
Rich Crombie and Bob Schmidt
The owner of the Horse and Cow and Capt Anderson. Capt Beam seated in background in green sweater
Oh, yeh, not making any buddies on the boomer side….


John Scanlan’s “before and after challenge”
Barbara and Bob Schmidt
The LAST CO and the FIRST
Mrs Lindberg


Dave Shaw
Chris Shinn
Ron Shirey
Greg Carroll
Matt Weber
Tom McPhilllips
Don Jones
Joe Polizotti
Sean Hankin
Conrad Bilgrien
Mike Trail
John Esau
Rich Boltin
Marty Russell
Frank Hamilton
Tom Canter







Photo credits: Joel Walton, Rich Crombie, Bill Patterson, Juan Acosta, John Scanlan, Bob Schmidt, and probably missed someone, also Facebook Live by Joel Walton and Rich Crombie

Copyright © 2019 -2021 bremertonreunion.net

Senior Enlisted Plankowner to attend Ceremony

Senior Enlisted Plankowner at Commissioning to attend the Decommissioning Ceremony

On May 18th, 2021 for the USS Bremerton’s (SSN-698) Decommissioning Ceremony at Keyport, Washington, a senior enlisted plankowner was selected to take one of the rare seats available.  This year was not possible to have more than 50 participants/attendees due to the strict COVID safety regulations observed by the Navy.

With respect to the late Bremerton plankowner and Chief-of-the-Boat, CMDCM(SS) Paul H. Gagnon, one seat was offered to the most senior enlisted man present at the Commissioning who also is expected to attend the Decommissioning Reunion in Bremerton.

When retired Senior Chief Gregory Carroll signed up to join the reunion in Bremerton, little did he know what was in store for him. He expected to be reunited with several of his fellow shipmates and plankowners including STSCS(SS)  Gordon “Gordy” Jennings USN (ret.) (a “Son of Bremerton”) and  ETCS(SS) Donald Jones  USN (ret.), but Senior Chief Carroll was then STS1(SS) Greg Carroll on the day of Commissioning (and with respect to other requirements set forth by the current Command) was selected to represent all enlisted plankowners and alumni who are unable to attend the ceremony in person.

Other Plankowners expected to attend the reunion are retired Navy submariners, CAPT. Tom Anderson, USN (ret), the first Commanding Officer of USS Bremerton (who is expected to speak at the ceremony), Conrad Bilgrien,  John Brunkalla, ICC(SS) Clemon Cager USN (ret.) , Frank Hamilton, Sean Hankin, CDR. Karl Jensen USN (ret) ,  Jeff Johnson, Thomas McPhillips, EMC(SS) Timothy Payne USN (ret.),  John Scanlan, CAPT. David Withers USAF (ret), and ICC(SS) Russ Woods USN (ret.).



Here’s a brief bio on our guy…


Gregory V. Carroll STSCS(SS) USN Ret.


Gregory was born in 1954 and raised in Cape May Court House, New Jersey. He enlisted in the Navy in March 1975.

After completion of Submarine Sonar “A” School at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center Pacific he reported to the USS Thomas Jefferson SSBN-618 Blue where he served from Dec 1975 until Jan 1978. He then returned to FLEASWTRACENPAC to attend Sonar “A-2” and “C” Schools and AN/BQQ-5 Advanced Maintenance Practices from Mar 78 until Mar 79.

In Dec 78 he married Jolyn Carter who was from Eagle, CO.

He reported to the PCU Bremerton SSN-698 in Apr 79 and served on her until May 1982 as a Sonar Supervisor.

Greg Carroll and Capt. Tom Anderson.

Gregory then received orders to COMSUBPAC Staff and was assigned to the Tactical Weapons Training and Certification Team until July 1984.

In Aug. of 1984 he reported to COMNAVSEASYSCOM where he was the Sonar representative on the SUBACS Operability Review Team (SORT) and worked on the Seawolf SSN-21 design and arrangements.

Greg Carroll makes Chief accompanied by his wife, Jolyn.

Gregory then reported to PCU San Juan SSN-751 serving as Sonar Leading Chief Petty Officer and the Combat System Departmental LCPO.

Dec 1988 he again reported to COMNAVSEASYSCOM where he served as Chief Engineer for RADM Doug Volgenau PEO-Submarine Combat and Weapons Systems until 1993 where he was transferred to PMS-450 the Virginia Class Submarine Program Office.

Gregory retired from the Navy in July 1995.

After retiring from the Navy Gregory continued to support the Virginia Class Program Office working as a contractor at several different companies.

Gregory and Jolyn have 1 daughter (Alissa) who was born in Hawaii in 1982.

Gregory retired totally in October 2015. He and his wife Jolyn currently live in Dumfries, VA and spend their winters in Boynton Beach, FL.

Submarine Sonar Chief Gregory V. Carroll


All photos of Greg Carroll are courtesy of Gregory and Jolyn Carroll

Note: Please direct any corrections or typos to: bremertonreunion.alumni@gmail.com SUBJ: TYPOS

Copyright © 2019 -2021 bremertonreunion.net



USS Bremerton (SSN-698) Decommissioning Dinner

Reservations Required

This is a preparatory blogpost just to key-in 698 Reunion attendees on the need for an accurate headcount for the DECOM DINNER to be held at the beautiful Kiana Lodge.


Click Here for details



Tuesday May 18th – 17:00 -22:00

  • reservations required
  • Cash payment of $25 per person AT THE DOOR
  • Succulent specially prepared Salmon part of the main course
  • No-Host Cocktails
  • Complimentary transportation provided for reunion attendees with reservations to and from the Fairfield Inn, in Bremerton

Please feel free to leave comment to signal your desire to attend before the official webpage is released.



Sponsored by the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council of the Navy League