Monday, July 27, 2009

USS Hawaii is Home, Mahalo!

Well, last Thursday was a day I will remember for the rest of my life. You always hear a lot about the Hawai’i ohana and we certainly felt welcomed into our new family. The day started early with us meeting Governor Lingle, Rear Admiral McAneny, and Commodore Hankins for a flag ceremony, as we drove into Pearl Harbor. Our families came out in a large Arizona Memorial boat and were able to watch as we raised the Hawaii State flag for the first time. As we proceeded inbound, we were greeted by a fly over of F-15s from the Hawaii Air National Guard. After completing the rest of our transit and arriving pier side, there was a host of performers there to great us including Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club, Halau Hula Olana Ai, Pa Ku’i a Lua, Danny Kaleikini, the PACFLT band, and a blessing performed by Kahuna Pule Ganotise. One of the things I appreciate the most about Hawai’i is the culture, so it was great that the ceremony included that aspect of Hawai’i.

Following the arrival festivities the crew disembarked and all received warm welcomes and leis from the people that were there to greet us. I was able to meet the Governor Linda Lingle, LT Governor James “Duke” Aiona, Jr., and members of the local state legislature on the pier to celebrate our arrival.

At a reception following our arrival, the crew was given several significant gifts including a Hawaiian State Flag that had been flown on the USS ARIZONA, USS MISSOURI, USS BOWFIN, and finally on USS HAWAII. In addition, the Navy League also gave us a check for $5000 to our Morale, Welfare, and Recreation committee.

The Governor also presented us with Welcome to Hawai’i Letters signed by Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, Congressmen Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and the 25th Hawai’i State Legislature.

As a whole, I could not have been more pleased with the day’s events. Having so many people put in so much effort to make our arrival special has made a lasting impression on the crew. After all of these years we are excited to finally be home, reunited with our families, and look forward to what the future may hold for USS HAWAII.

I would like to thank Governor Lingle, the Navy League, and the staff at Submarine Squadron ONE for their efforts in making Thursday such a special day for the crew of USS HAWAII.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer

Monday, July 20, 2009

Entering the Final Stages of Our Transit

Excitement continues to build as we enter the final stages of our transit. The tactical monitors in my Control Room that track the ship’s position now feature the islands of Hawaii. After looking at the west coast of Mexico for so long and feeling like we weren’t making much progress on our journey, it is nice to see the friendly waters of Hawaii and realize that we are only days away.

Most of the crew got their hair cut over the weekend. We have no professional barbers so what you get is short hair, style not so much. They say the difference in a good boat hair cut and a bad boat hair cut is about two weeks. Looks like I will be waiting two weeks.

Cribbage update: I was on a solid run with lots of skunks, including beating my Radio Chief, ETC Fournier. His father is a former submarine sailor so my ETC probably grew up playing the game. The match after my Radio Chief was against an officer who is attached to the USS NORTH CAROLINA, LT Durbin. He beat me thoroughly. I am now off reviewing the rules of cribbage tournaments. I am pretty sure that sailors from other commands are not allowed to win. If LT Durbin wins the tournament, that would be a big blow to crew morale. One of my Sonar Technicians, STS2 McIntosh, is currently in the lead and we are all counting on him to win the tournament.

One of the great things about submarines is we have really good food. That also helps to make us a little chubby during long underway periods. I find the exercise equipment gets a lot more use in the final days of an underway as sailors realize they have put on a few pounds and need to lose it fast. For those of us who had a few too many desserts, we are in full panic mode. Everyone wants to make sure they look good for the big arrival.

Other than preparing for our arrival we are continuing our work perfecting the crew’s ability to respond to casualties and conduct strike warfare. The constant training ensures we will be ready if called. My Fire Control Technicians, lead by FTC Brennan, are responsible for managing the strike warfare mission areas and have become quite proficient during the last two months of the underway. I also make sure my Junior Officers are fully engaged in the planning and execution. As Captain, I am always mindful that I must ensure my Junior Officers are getting the training they need to be future submarine Captains.

The plans are all in place now for our arrival. The crew has heard all of the great stories about the feeling of “Aloha” and is looking forward to finally arriving home!

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer

Friday, July 17, 2009

Only few more days to go...


USS HAWAII is now officially part of the Pacific Fleet. With our arrival finally being announced, we are all counting down the days until we arrive in paradise, only 5 more days to go. For most of the crew, the promise of being on a submarine stationed in Hawaii was a major draw for coming to this submarine in the first place. While at sea, some submarines allow the crew to grow beards, wear more colorful tee shirts/hats, and have more relaxed grooming standards. While I can't officially say that we have that policy, I can say that the barber shop will be open in the Torpedo Room all Saturday and Sunday just to make sure we look our best when we arrive.

This is my sixth submarine, but my first Pacific submarine. Several of the previous Pacific Sailors onboard have been giving me a hard time about finally being in the "deep waters" of the Pacific and being a "real submariner" now. While I am not sure that East Coast submariners are not "real submariners", I do look forward to the change and seeing the difference in the two sides of the submarine force.

The crew is also busy studying books on Hawaii. Everyone is talking about all of the places they want to see and the new hobbies they are going to take up once we arrive. I personally am looking forward to a night in a hotel and some well earned rest. We have been living on a boat together since early May, and although I love the crew, everyone looks forward to a little down time.

It is the weekend, so when we aren't busy practicing our basic submarine skills on watch and conducting training we are busy playing cards and in general relaxing. The mess decks are full of crew members either playing poker or cribbage or watching movies. Saturday and Sunday are traditionally more relaxed days underway and offer an opportunity for everyone to catch up on their sleep.

There are plans to take some pictures of us as we drive in, I will get them posted on the website once I get copies.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer
USS Hawaii

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

USS Hawaii (SSN 776) Arrival Ceremony

The official arrival ceremony has been announced. More information can be found here.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

USS Hawaii officially joins Commander, Submarine Squadron ONE

Yesterday USS HAWAII got a new boss. We now officially work for Commander Submarine Squadron ONE who is based in Pearl Harbor. Yet another milestone in the process of getting us home to Hawaii. The crew continues to be busy. Onboard the new VIRGINIA Class submarines, we have a very realistic team trainer that can simulate various submarines and surface ships of countries around the world. We use the system to provide realistic maritime scenarios for the crew to respond to and hone their war fighting skills. As we transit to Hawaii, we are currently working on our ability to track other submarines covertly, conduct tomahawk strikes, and respond to potential ship-wide casualties. The constant training and watchstanding keep the crew busy. At sea, we work in an 18 hour rotation. Each sailor stands watch for 6 hours, usually has another six hours of maintenance or training, and then has about 6 hours off to get ready for the next watch. The average sailor only gets about 6 hours of sleep a day. They use their limited free time to workout, play video games, watch movies, do laundry (we only have one washer and dryer for a crew of 130), and send emails home to their families. Life onboard a submarine at sea is always busy.

In a shocking development, I lost a match in the cribbage tournament and am now working my way through the loser bracket in hopes of getting another chance. We also have a poker night planned for this weekend. I have several expert card players onboard HAWAII, so I intend to stay well clear of those matches.

We picked our Sailor of the Quarter and Junior Sailor of the Quarter for the 2nd Quarter of 2009. Electronic Technician's Chris Johnson and Ross White, both Quartermasters, were selected. We recently transitioned to using all electronic charts onboard HAWAII and their hard work was crucial to our success in that area. It is unusual for one division to be recognized with both awards so that speaks volumes for their significant contributions. On USS HAWAII, I am blessed to have 130 sailors who work incredibly hard everyday to make us successful. Both of the two sailors selected are examples of what makes this ship great!

The excitement continues to build. I know I speak for every member of the crew when I say we can't wait to get to Hawaii. For most of us being a sailor attached to USS HAWAII in Hawaii has been something we have been looking forward to since the day we checked onboard.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aloha from COMSUBPAC

Captain Herrington,

To you and the entire crew of USS Hawaii--welcome to the Pacific Fleet! We are anxiously awaiting your arrival here in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Sail safe.

Doug McAneny
Rear Admiral, USN

Friday, July 10, 2009

Updated: USS Hawaii is now sailing the waters of the Pacific!

USS Hawaii is now in the Pacific!

We spent today transiting the Panama Canal. For those of you who have never been through the canal I will explain the journey.

The trip takes about nine hours including three sets of locks and a six hour drive through a large lake that has about different 12 turns. The locks are challenging for any ship and especially for submarines. We don't have bow thrusters on submarines so fitting a 7600 ton submarine into a 110 foot wide canal is to say the least interesting. My line handlers topside have to haul in these very heavy cables to secure the boat to the lock and do so as the ship is drifting within feet of the canal walls. If they don't get the lines over quickly the ship could stand into trouble. Luckily on USS HAWAII I have a very talented and strong group of line handlers topside and they got the lines over efficiently and with plenty of time to spare.

During the trip we passed numerous large merchants at close range, a school full of little girls played their musical instruments and waved as we drove by, and we received a big cheer from the visitors at the Miraflores Visitor Station at one of the locks. It always makes me feel proud to serve my country on days like today. Although most of us made sure to put on lots of suncreen this morning, it turns out it is "rainy season" in Panama. So instead of basking in the sun, we were cooled by the rain for a reasonable portion of the trip. Although USS HAWAII is a new submarine this was our third trip through the Panama Canal. We also had the pleasure of awarding three sailors their "Dolphins" or submarine warfare pin today during the transit. Earning your Dolphins on a submarine is the biggest moment of any young submarine sailor's career and getting them in the Panama Canal makes the day even more special.

The cribbage tournament is also underway. I won my first match and I am on my way to what I hope will be the championship. The crew always hopes they get the luck of the draw and play against me. First, they all think they can beat me and second they enjoy the braggin rights.

The excitement continues to build with the crew, especially now that we are sailing the waters of the Pacific Ocean. We are counting down the days until our arrival.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keeping busy onboard during transit


Things continue to be busy on USS HAWAII as we continue our transit. Submarines are multi-mission platforms and staying proficient in several different mission areas requires a constant effort. In addition to all of the training that we do to keep the crew sharp, our Navigator has taken on the additional job of "Cruise Director". As we sail through the various seas in route to Hawaii he is responsible for developing some activities to help the crew enjoy their limited free time. A favorite game is cribbage. I have heard that only fireman and submariners play cribbage. Winning the cribbage tournament onboard is about as big as it gets.

We had some extended time on the surface the past few days including the opportunity to work on our man overboard ship driving skills. The Junior Officers had a competition to see who could recover the "man overboard" the fastest. One of my junior officers posted the best time at just under four minutes. I am glad they didn't make me try to beat that time.

One of the things many of us do to pass the free time is exercise. As you can imagine workout facilities are limited on a submarine. We have three exercise bikes, a set of perfect pushups, some rubber exercise bands, and one set of dumbbells. That is not much equipment for 130 people. To help us manage our weight, the culinary specialist onboard provide a "healthy choice" option for each meal, usually a fish or baked chicken. We are all looking forward to arriving in Hawaii so we can enjoy the local scenery while we work out instead of staring at MK48 torpedoes.

The crew's excitement builds each day as we continue our journey to paradise.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer

Monday, June 22, 2009

USS Hawaii makes final preparations for their transit home


USS HAWAII is in Kings Bay Georgia making final preparations for our transit to Hawaii. We completed our weapons systems evaluations with flying colors and have loaded our torpedoes and final food stores in preparation for the transit.

One of the nice things about the submarine force is that when a submarine visits a port, one of the local submarine crews volunteers to serve as the host. In our case, USS WYOMING GOLD is our host. They were kind enough to have the crew over for a party and have challenged us to a golf match. Everyone enjoys the opportunity to swap sea stories and see how the other half lives.

We have been talking regularly with our new submarine squadron staff about the plans for our arrival. The ceremony looks to be a festive event. I hope it will set the tone for the relationship that we desire to maintain with the local community over the next thirty years. Most of our families have left Groton, CT and are now arriving in Hawaii. Moving can be quite stressful for families, especially ones with small children. We have worked hard over the past year to make the transition for each family as smooth as possible. The families have been sharing stories about how welcome they have felt and of course how wonderful the weather and scenery has been. Having our families waiting on the pier for us when we arrive will make the homecoming that much more special.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer, USS Hawaii SSN 776

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Elements of a new class


HAWAII is at sea again and enjoying doing the work that submariners do. We had another swim call today during a break in the work. Great weather and this time we didn't see the shark until after we were all out of the water. I am beginning to think that USS HAWAII has a shark that follows us around. I have done three swim calls and seen a shark each time. The crew is tough though, and a little shark never stopped us from getting in the water.

The crew is busy testing our various weapons systems and spends most of the day practicing one of the various mission areas submarines specialize in. One of the challenges of being on a submarine is we don't just do one thing. Submarines, especially the new VIRGINIA Class submarines, are designed to conduct anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, naval special warfare, intelligence collection, mine warfare, etc. All of those missions require the crew to dedicate hours each day at sea and in port training and conducting simulated missions to ensure we are ready when it is time deploy. HAWAII has several features unique to this class of ship which make us very effective at conducting each of the mission areas. I will discuss some of our more interesting features in a later blog.

My nuclear trained watchstanders are counting down the days to our arrival in Hawaii as only nuclear trained watchstanders would. Each day they write down on a white board the element of the periodic table that corresponds to the days we have left. A very unique group of sailors!

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer, USS HAWAII SSN 776

Thursday, June 4, 2009

USS Hawaii crew enjoys Cocoa Beach, Florida


The crew of HAWAII has enjoyed our time in Cocoa Beach Florida. In addition to the work that we conducted while we were here, we had the opportunity to host a significant number of military, community leaders, and a group of 25 Naval Cadets for tours onboard. We also had the pleasure of hosting several groups of astronauts and engineers working on the replacement for the space shuttle. They were very interested in some of the systems we use onboard for atmosphere control and how they might be applied for use in space. The crew takes great pride in showing off the boat to our many guests. The astronauts were generous enough afterwards to offer the crew a behind the scenes tour of NASA. Many of my sailors remarked that work on the space shuttle reminded them of the work done on submarines at Electric Boat in Groton.

Members of the Navy League also invited both the wardrooms of TEXAS and HAWAII out for a night at one of the member's homes and hosted a party for the crew. Everyone appreciated the support and generosity demonstrated by the local community. Several of the Chief Petty Officers and I were also able to get away for a little golf. Something I look forward to doing more often once we get to Hawaii. The sailors that have served in Hawaii rave about how nice all of the golf courses are.

Things continue to go smooth on the boat and the anticipation continues to build. I have the weather in HAWAII saved on my iphone and check it frequently to remind myself of how nice it is going to be once we arrive home.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer, USS HAWAII SSN 776

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Counting the days until Hawaii arrival


We arrived back in Florida yesterday. We had some extra free time prior to mooring so we conducted a swim call with the crew. Everyone had a great time until a shark showed up. The crew got out of the water, a little slow for my taste, but everyone including the shark seemed to enjoy the swim. It was quite an interesting drive in to the port. In a one hour period I saw dolphins, sharks, small manta rays and a few sea turtles.

Every night underway the crew watches a movie together. During the week two of the movies had scenes filmed in Hawaii. Everyone was really excited about the scenes and how breathtaking everything is.

Over the next few weeks we will be working hard on our tactics and techniques for several different mission areas including anti-submarine warfare, missile strike, and mine field penetration.

The crew and I are counting the days to our arrival.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer, USS HAWAII SSN 776

Friday, May 22, 2009

Excitement among the crew of USS Hawaii


Excitement stirs among the crew as HAWAII makes her journey to her new homeport. Several crew members previously stationed in Pearl Harbor are stimulating the crew about the wonderful life in Hawaii. The stories of the panoramic views from wherever you are on the island are beyond belief. The stories are including that ALOHA is not just a greeting or salutation but a way of life.

CMDCS(SS) Robert R. Crossno, Jr.
Chief of the Boat, USS Hawaii SSN 776

USS Hawaii departs Groton


HAWAII has finally said goodbye to the cold Groton weather only to find rain in Florida during our brief stop there. We are in the process of conducting technical evaluations of some of our systems over the coming weeks and working on tour tactical proficiency in preparation for our next deployment. Though we have left many friends in Groton behind, we look forward to meeting our new Hawaiian ohana soon. Many of our families are already starting to arrive in Hawaii and their reports are helping to build the excitement of the crew.

CDR Ed Herrington
Commanding Officer, USS HAWAII SSN 776