Nebraska: leaving Georgia on their minds

USS Nebraska (SSBN 735) will be changing homeports to Naval Subase Bangor in October 2004. It is the third Trident submarine to change homeports in two years. - U.S. Navy photo
USS Nebraska (SSBN 735) will be changing homeports to Naval Subase Bangor in October 2004. It is the third Trident submarine to change homeports in two years.
— image credit: U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. Navy confirmed last week the USS Nebraska will move to Naval Submarine Base Bangor in October 2004. The boat is currently home ported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys, Ga. The move is expected to bring about 500 new residents to the Bremerton area, in addition to an approximate $18 million annual payroll, said Lt. Barbara Mertz, a spokesperson for Submarine Group 9, which encompasses Subase Bangor. Subase Kings Bay is the east coast’s equivalent of Subase Bangor.

The Navy currently has 14 Trident submarines and the move will mean each coast has seven submarines each.

The submarine has two crews, a blue crew and a gold crew, for a combined total of about 330. In addition to the crew members, there are an estimated 200 family members who also will make the 3,000-mile move next year.

“Kings Bay will work closely with Nebraska’s crews and family members, as well as NSB Bangor to ensure a smooth as possible move to the west coast,” said Capt. John Cohoon Jr., commanding officer of Subase Kings Bay.

Mertz also said the Navy will do whatever is necessary to make the transition easier for the crew members and families.

When crew members and families undergo a Navy move, the Navy hires movers to pack the families’ belongings and reimburse them for some moving-related expenses, Mertz said.

Those families who want to live in Navy housing, either on the Subase Bangor or in Bremerton’s Jackson Park, should be easily accomodated, Mertz said. There currently is a waiting list of one to six months for Navy housing. Families can get on the waiting list as soon as the service members get their official orders.

The move is a response to a 1994 Defense Department recommendation that the Trident submarine force be scaled back from 18 to 14 that carry the Trident II (D-5) missile to meet the requirements of the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty. The four remaining submarines are available for conversion to nuclear-powered guided missile submarines, or SSGNs. The conversions would allow the submarines to launch conventional land-attack weapons, such as the Tomahawk missile. The four submarines being coverted are USS Ohio , USS Florida , USS Michigan and USS Georgia .

“This decision has been looming on the horizon for some time,” said Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga. 1). “ ... There has always been talk about equalizing the Atlantic and Pacific fleets at seven SSBNs each. With the many potential threats in the Pacific theater — from North Korea around to the Persian Gulf — a strong Navy presence in this area is in our national interest.”

Kingston did take exception to the fact that he did not know of the home port change until he was tipped by news reports. His main concern now is to ensure two of the SSGN conversion submarines, the USS Georgia and USS Florida, remain in Georgia. It has not yet been determined where those converted submarines will be home ported.

The current Navy plan is for the submarine conversions to be complete by 2007, Kingston said.

“I will be working with the Navy to close the gap between the time the Nebraska leaves in late 2004 and the time the new SSGNs arrive,” Kingston said.

George Behan, a spokesman for Congressman Norm Dicks (D -Wa.), agreed the realignment plans are necessary to assess threats in the Pacific. He added that there is a “level of anxiety” in communities surrounding military bases because a new round of base closures is looming on the horizon, but that Trident bases should not be concerned.

“We’re going to maintain the Trident fleet at whatever the current numbers are,” Behan said.

The USS Nebraska will be the third Trident submarine to change home ports from Subase Kings Bay to Subase Bangor. The USS Kentucky and the USS Pennsylvania moved to Subase Bangor in August and October 2002, respectively.

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