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