USS Columbus and Ohio Submariners make an impression on Makeover!

“This is one of the largest, most
beautiful houses we’ve built, and for
an unbelievably deserving family... It was a tremendous effort, and when we sent out a call for help, the Navy answered! The submarine crews from USS
Columbus and USS Ohio did an amazing job! It was so cool to see so many guys from Columbus and Ohio turn out and pitch in to help make this event happen! An absolutely fantastic bunch of guys – they made such a difference! Thank you so much, everyone from Columbus and Ohio – you were all so amazing – the Navy is AWESOME!”

- Ty Pennington, of ABC’s
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Photo caption follows
MMC Scott Harkins takes the opportunity to pose for a picture with Ty Pennington, host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

A Kingston, Washington family benefited from the generosity and teamwork of Navy volunteers when ABC’s hit TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, came to Kitsap County to build them a new 3,200 square–foot custom home. Since their house burned down in March, the family – a widow and her three daughters – had been living on their property in a utility shed with no running water, cooking on a camping stove, and depending on their neighbors for showers.

Nearly 200 crewmembers from USS Columbus (SSN-762) and USS Ohio (SSGN- 726), together with Seabees from Bangor and crewmember’s spouses, were among the first to answer the call when the show asked for local volunteers to help with the project. In addition to their normal duties, these Sailors worked long and hard at all hours of the day and night to assist however they could.

Scouting the Location

“When I first came up to Kitsap County and touched base with Grant Griffin of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau and Silvia Klatman of the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce, little did I know that I had struck solid gold,” said Chris Larsen, Location Manager for the show. “I outlined the project and noted that I’d need a couple of hundred volunteers to even start to make it all happen. The complexity of the task, and how to organize such a large group of volunteers were real concerns I shared with Silvia and Grant. They listened, they smiled, and they said not to worry, they knew where to turn for help. Silvia made one phone call – and one of the best experiences I’ve had working as Location Manager for Extreme Makeover was about to begin – with the U.S. Navy!”

The Navy Answers the Call

Photo caption follows
A Seabee truck from the Naval Submarine Base, Bangor delivered a truck full of Columbus and Ohio volunteers. Left to right: MM1(SS) Brian Scheetz, LTJG Brandon Soule, HMC(SS) Robert Stewart, MM1(SS) Daniel Kloepher and MMC(SS) Bruck Honey.

Columbus and Ohio were both at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in nearby Bremerton undergoing an extreme makeover of their own: overhaul, repair, and in Ohio’s case, conversion to her new SSGN configuration.

“When my Chief of the Boat on Columbus asked for a lead volunteer for this Extreme Makeover show to help out a needy local family, I had no idea it would get so big,” said Chief Machinists Mate (SS) Scott Harkins “The excitement was overwhelming from Day One. Due to our shipyard maintenance schedule, we enlisted the help of Senior Chief Yeoman (SS) Dan Brannon and Chief Missile Technician (SS) Steve Hamm from Ohio. Our team of volunteers from both boats really stepped up to the plate on this one.”

“We had several meetings during the two weeks prior to beginning the event, and I was overwhelmed from the start,” said Chris Larsen. “Chief Harkins from Columbus and Ohio’s Senior Chief Brannon had crew members jumping to volunteer. Before I knew it, they posted a 24/7 watch bill with four shifts. I was stunned! They took over and ran with the ball like I’ve never seen before. Master Chief Chris Murphy from the local Seabee unit joined us and came through in a big way with more heavy equipment and ten people from his unit to help demolish and build on the site. I’m so spoiled now – I’ll never have it this easy again!”

Bremerton’s Silvia Klatman seconded the laudatory comments made by Ty Pennington and Chris Larsen. “The Navy was amazing to work with,” she said.  “When Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes to town, the crew is normally scrambling to schedule volunteers, assign tasks, do mini-training sessions – you name it.  In the weeks leading up to construction, their production people approached me several times a little worried about dealing with the Navy. It was almost like it was too good to be true, so they were waiting for the bad news.  But the bad news never came.”

“Our crew was involved in security, traffic and crowd control, landscaping, framing, masonry, drywall, general labor, and clean-up for the project…The overall response to our efforts has been extremely positive. I can’t tell you how many times people stopped by in the cold morning hours to say ‘thank you’ to the Navy for our involvement.”

Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005