Groton – In the Navy, you can count on pomp.
You may have to wait a bit if, say, a pandemic breaks in, but you will. Circumstance too.
The crew of the USS Vermont (SSN-792) were keeping watch this Friday morning at the Naval Submarine Base, preparing to deliver on the Navy’s promise to hold a full-fledged commissioning ceremony the next day. . Specifically, Saturday’s event was billed as the “commemoration” of an “administrative commissioning” of the submarine that took place around 16 months ago at a time when COVID-19 was imposing small crowds and social distancing.
On April 18, 2020, Vermont transitioned to “normal operations” without even a public salute.
The day before, the Navy had taken delivery of the submarine to Electric Boat, of which the Groton shipyard had participated in its construction. It has since been around the world several times, according to the ship’s captain, Charles Phillips III, who said on Friday he had called in Brazil, where he hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and in Europe. .
In the face of COVID-19, “the crew have been very resilient,” said Phillips, who compared much of the time spent on the submarine to “being in an office building with no windows.”
Friday, under a blazing sun, the crew of 130 men had to rehearse.
Enter David Anderson, a 31-year-old naval man, now retired, who has been preparing crews for baptisms, commissionings and the like for six years, a job that has taken him across the country.
“Planning for a ceremony like this starts in two or three years,” he said on Friday. “Usually I have a week to rehearse. This is the first time I have done it in a day, but this boat just arrived yesterday.
Anderson approached the task with good humor, humor and an air of solemnity.
“We are keeping a promise Secretary Guerts made to the crew, their families and the people of Vermont,” he said. “They have the right to a party. … The Navy is all about tradition. “
James Guerts, then the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, had promised last year that Vermont would have an appropriate commissioning ceremony.
During a first try, Anderson urged the line-up to practice saluting in a clean, unison manner.
“We don’t want to look like we’re rocking a football game,” he told the team. “Now, with one voice, it’s ‘Yes, yes ma’am.'”
During the ‘race on board’, the crew, one at a time, trotted along Pier 6, crossed a gangway to Vermont and took up position side by side on the deck of the submarine. fast attack 377 feet long.
They were accompanied by a recording of “Anchors Aweigh,” the official Navy song.
U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Peter Welch of Vermont, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Rear Admiral Douglas Perry, Chief of Naval Operations Director of Submarine Warfare are expected speak during the commissioning on Saturday. ‘ Staff.
Vermont Godmother Gloria Valdez, who retired in 2018 as Assistant Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a role in which she oversaw shipbuilding programs, ship conversions, maintenance and modernization, is not expected to not speak. She did witness Friday’s preparations at the base, however, after traveling from her home in New Mexico. She has a lasting affiliation with Vermont, having smashed a bottle of sparkling wine on her bow during her christening on October 18, 2018, at Electric Boat.
Valdez said she returned to the shipyard the following year to baptize Vermont with water drawn from Lake Champlain in Vermont.
Saturday’s commemoration of Vermont’s administrative commissioning is “a special day” for the people of Vermont, she said.
“As for the crew,” she added, “they represent the best of America to me.”