USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee is Akin to an Extended Family
GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The relationship between the Navy League's New Mexico Commissioning Committee and the crew of USS New Mexico (SSN 779) during its 33-year lifespan will mirror that of an extended family.
Coincidentally, every year from Nov. 1-30, we reflect on the sacrifices and services of our families during National Military Family Appreciation Month. The Navy League's New Mexico Commissioning Committee, like a family, has been a consistent supporter of the sixth Virginia-class submarine since long before the submarine was commissioned in 2010.
The committee has a long history of assisting the crew in a variety of ways to show their support for their state's namesake submarine. Prior to her commissioning, the committee created a New Mexico theme in the décor of the submarine's living quarters, including Southwest-style bunk and passageway curtains.
Capt. Robert Dain, a native of New Mexico, became the first officer in charge of his state's namesake submarine during the boat's pre-commissioning status in 2006-2008.
"It was a great honor to form the initial bond and bring the cultural of the state to the submarine New Mexico," said Dain, who is presently assigned to Commander, Submarine Group Two. Dain was born in Shiprock, N.M., and raised in Tijeras and Cedar Crest, N.M., east of Albuquerque.
Dick Brown, chairman, USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee, said there is a unique relationship the boat shares with the committee. The Commissioning Committee is in their 11th year of support for USS New Mexico, even though the boat was commissioned last year.
"While construction of 'our' sub did not start until March 2004, our pursuit of the name New Mexico started in January 2000," said Brown. "While New Mexico doesn't reside near an ocean, we are very much a Navy state with three submarines honoring our state."
The committee offers support to the crew of USS New Mexico in a variety of ways. Among their support activities are Sailor of the Quarter and Sailor of the Year plaques for the crew, hosting crew member visits to the state, sponsoring crew picnics, and even supplying red Chile Christmas lights to make sure the boat is noticed on the waterfront during the Holiday Season. Most recently, the Committee supplied new tabletops in the design of the New Mexico state flag for five tables in the crew's mess.
So unique is their bond that the committee has organized training for the culinary specialists assigned to the boat to learn the art of creating fine New Mexico cuisine for the crew.
Brown added that the crew had previously named their dining facility affectionately after a popular restaurant in Mesilla, New Mexico. The crew refers to their dining facility as "La Posta Abajo del Mar" which when translated means "La Posta beneath the Sea".
For the past three years, New Mexico Sailors have also attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and pictures similar to their flight experiences were also added to the crew's mess décor.
In return, the officers and crew of New Mexico have invited committee members and supporters on two VIP cruises out of Port Canaveral, Fla.
The second VIP cruise, this past September, included many Navy veterans as well as the designer of the ship's crest, Emilee Sena, a college student who is now pursuing a scientific PhD after her experiences with the high-tech submarine and its highly trained crew.
In October, three Sailors assigned to USS New Mexico participated in Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks provide opportunities for the local residents to meet some of the Navy's Sailors and learn about the Navy's critical missions and its broad ranging capabilities.
During their visit, the Sailors met with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; conducted a question and answering session with Sea Cadets at Bataan Military Academy; served dinner at a homeless shelter; attended a Navy birthday ball and participated in other community relations events planned by the New Mexico Commissioning Committee.
New Mexico is named in recognition of the people of the "Land of Enchantment." The battleship New Mexico (BB40), in commission from 1918 to 1946 and the only other ship named after the 47th state, earned six battle stars for World War II service, which included providing shore bombardment support for landings in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, Guam, Tinian, Saipan, the Philippines, and Okinawa. BB40 acted as the flagship for the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
"The Sailors who served aboard New Mexico (BB 40) are truly deserving of the recognition this exhibition provides," said Cmdr. George Perez, commanding officer of New Mexico since October 2010. "Their legacy will continue to serve both the state and the Nation onboard New Mexico for decades to come," said Perez.
The state of New Mexico will celebrate its statehood centennial Jan. 6 2012. Like any other extended family, the crew of USS New Mexico is sure to share their well wishes for another successful 100 years and beyond.