Submarine crew visits namesake city

Pictured, from left, USS Columbia crew members Jacob Rey and Ian Sugg present a plaque bearing the submarine’s official seal to Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson along with Commander Dave Edgerton during a send-off social last Tuesday evening at 11 South. (Alan Dooley photo)

It was a homecoming of sorts last week for Columbia’s namesake submarine.

Three crew members from the USS Columbia visited for a three-day stay.

Commander Dave Edgerton, Lieutenant Ian Sugg and Electrician’s Mate-Nuclear Petty Officer Second Class Jacob Rey represented the 121-man crew of the ship. 

It was a double homecoming for Rey, who is a 2012 graduate of Waterloo High School.

 A send-off social took place last Tuesday night at 11 South with more than 100 in attendance. 

The three Navy men visited Columbia schools prior to the send-off, making presentations about the ship, and talking to students about life in the Navy. The men also met with local Boy Scouts.

During the social, Edgerton described how intense submarine operations are, noting that when they are deployed from their Pearl Harbor home port, they are at sea 90 percent of the time, almost all underwater, seldom making port calls.

While not providing specific areas of operation in the Pacific and Indian oceans, Edgerton did say their mission is “to preserve peace by sustaining the best war fighting capability possible.”

He pointed out the importance of the Navy by saying 70 percent of the world is covered by oceans, and 80 percent of its population lives within 200 miles of ocean coasts.

Edgerton added that it is visits like the one to Columbia that remind him and the crew why they put in all the hard work and spend many months away from families and friends.  

“This gathering, and the young people and their teachers, are why we do what we do.  You make it all worthwhile,” he said.

The USS Columbia is a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. She and her sister ships are 362 feet long and displace some 7,000 tons. They are equipped with four torpedo tubes to fire MK-48 torpedoes and 12 vertical launch tubes to fire long range cruise missiles for offensive operations again on shore targets.

The ship can operate underwater for extended periods, limited only by supplies and crew endurance. Its nuclear reactor generates electrical power to propel the ship at speeds up to 35 miles per hour underwater, to provide temperature control and lighting, as well as to sustain life by manufacturing breathable air by splitting hydrogen and oxygen from sea water. 

Operating that reactor is Rey’s primary task.

The USS Columbia was commissioned in October 1995 — an event that was attended by many Columbia citizens. She was the last submarine launched by being slid down a long ramp into the water, and is therefore known as “The Last Slider.”

The ship is named for the cities of Columbia in Illinois, Missouri and South Carolina. 

The three crew members also visited their Missouri namesake before returning to their ship at the end of the week.

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