Navy commissions USS Oregon
Groton — The USS Oregon officially entered active service on Saturday, as the U.S. Navy held a ceremony at the Naval Submarine Base for the 20th Virginia-class submarine — the first in-person commissioning in more than three years.
"Will the crew of the USS Oregon man your ship and bring her to life?" ship sponsor Dana Richardson, an Oregon native, proudly directed. She is the wife of retired Navy Adm. John Richardson, who served as the former chief of naval operations, and has been a Navy spouse for 35 years.
"Aye aye, ma'am!" the crew replied, and jogged onto the topside of the boat as various whistles, horns and bells sounded.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she felt right at home with the weather — foggy, misty and 66 degrees. She and other dignitaries highlighted the aptness of the Oregon state motto for the occasion: Alis Volat Propiis, "she flies with her own wings." Brown said it conveys a deep sense of pride, passion and purpose.
"May the USS Oregon and the state of Oregon continue to hold in common an embodiment of values these words represent," she said. The governor gave her wishes for the crew to share the traits she said Oregonians possess of being adventurous, courageous, collaborative and compassionate.
"May this crew remember that at the heart of service is compassion and love: love of this country, love of this people, love of her values," Brown said. She also drew a parallel between the Oregon state fish and the crew, noting that like how Chinook salmon migrate from fresh water to the ocean before returning, sailors will be eagerly welcomed home after serving abroad.
Congress authorized procurement of the USS Oregon (SSN 793) in 2014, and construction began in July 2017. The boat was christened at Electric Boat's shipyard in October 2019.
SSN 793 is the fourth Navy ship to bear the Oregon name and the first in more than a century. The third USS Oregon (BB-3), commissioned in 1896, contributed to the destruction of the Spanish squadron in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Oregon was decommissioned in 1906, modernized and reactivated in 1911, and during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1918, escorted a convoy for the Siberian expedition. After the start of World War II, the ship was used to store ammunition for the invasion of Guam.
The first crew
"That right there is a fine-looking ship," Cmdr. Lacy Lodmell said as he took the podium toward the end of the ceremony. A Montana native who enlisted in the Navy in 1998, went into the officer program and served on the USS Louisiana, USS Ohio and USS Mississippi, Lodmell is the ship's first commanding officer.
He said the crew of about 140 personnel is "without a doubt the finest crew I have ever had the pleasure to serve with," and said it's been a long, challenging road to arrive at the ceremony Saturday.
Lodmell said it's a rare occasion to be a plank owner — a member of a ship's crew when the ship is placed in commission — and part of the commissioning.
The executive officer is Lt. Cmdr. Collin Hedges, an Indiana native who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served on the USS Key West and USS Kentucky.
Hedges said the Oregon has a lot of capabilities compared to older ships he's been on, with advanced periscopes, sensors and sonar. He said the boat will support surveillance, special operations and covert strike missions.
"We have a lot of motivated sailors who have just gotten here," said Master Chief Bryan Randall, who as chief of the boat on the Oregon is the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer and executive officer.
Originally from Philadelphia, Randall served on the USS Maryland and USS Miami before becoming the first chief of the boat on the USS South Dakota, which was the last submarine to get an in-person commissioning ceremony before the COVID-19 pandemic.
'One of the technological marvels of the world'
"It cannot be understated: Growing the submarine industrial base is essential to the security and prosperity of the American people," said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. "That's not just hometown cheerleading."
He said Saturday was a great day for the states of Oregon, Connecticut and Rhode Island, but that the occasion's meaning extends far beyond these states' boundaries.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who co-chairs the Congressional Submarine Caucus with Courtney, also was in attendance.
"The boat behind me is one of the technological marvels of the world," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, calling submarines the most versatile, stealthy and strong of any weapons platforms.
The senator said if anyone had any doubt about the importance of the United States' submarine superiority, the invasion of Ukraine should leave no question. He said while some people may say it's a land war, U.S. strength undersea is a critical pillar in Russia deterrence.
Referencing how far we've come since the launch of the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, Electric Boat President Kevin Graney said the Oregon "can dive deeper, travel faster, perform more missions and operate with more stealth and weapons than anyone could've imagined 68 years ago."
Lodmell concluded by telling his crew, "Congratulations, trailblazers, and now it's time to go get Oregon-ized."