PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Chicago (SSN 721) celebrated its 25th anniversary this week at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with events which include a visit to the submarine by members of the 721 Club of Chicago.
"It is a great honor to have the 721 Club here for our 25th anniversary and to be able to continue our strong relationship with this organization," said Cmdr. Nick Tillbrook, Chicago commanding officer. "Their support of us for all these years means so much to us. Knowing that our service and dedication to our nation is much appreciated by great Americans such as them motivates us to perform that much better."
Over the years, the successor to the commissioning committee for USS Chicago, the 721 Club, has provided ongoing support and contact with the crew and families of the submarine. The 721 Club's activities have included contributions and support for the USS Chicago Wives' Club, holiday gifts for children of the crew, "ditty bags" of gifts and useful items for all personnel, and sponsorship of an annual holiday party for the officers and crew of Chicago.
"With great enthusiasm, our principal focus, from the mission that was established at the commissioning of the submarine, is to support you and show our appreciation for all of you," said Lee Benish, 721 Club president. "We are humbled and proud to be able to contribute to you in small form, and honor all of the things you do for us. That is really the heart of the 721 Club."
As part of the festivities, the 721 Club was invited to partake in a day at sea on USS Chicago. The namesake city guests received a warm welcome from the Chicago crew and learned about life aboard the submarine. Shortly after Chicago departed, all guests were briefed on general safety procedures and received a basic overview on the mission and history of USS Chicago. Throughout the day, guests were able to partake in numerous events such as observing the sea from atop of the sail, enjoying a meal on the mess decks and observing submarine operations from the control center.
"It is an honor to be aboard USS Chicago and amazing to see the abilities of the crew operating such a complex ship," said Chris Harnack, 721 Club treasurer and member for more than 10 years. "It is also great to see their appreciation for what the club represents to them and how we support them and their families."
The crew demonstrated various submarine maneuvers including "angles and dangles" which tests the integrity of the submarine's interior safety by making sure everything is tied down and secure. They also witnessed the notional firing of a torpedo which allowed the guests to hear and feel the effects of the firing blast without actually discharging a weapon.
"It's not very often that we get to demonstrate to civilians first-hand what submarine life is really about on a daily basis," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class (SS) Zachary Womack, Chicago crewmember. "It makes me proud knowing that there are people who really care for what we do. When the 721 Club returns to Chicago, they will share with their family and friends what we showed them."
The 721 Club's visit culminated with an official ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 20. At this ceremony, representatives from the Union League Club of Chicago and 721 Club presented remarks along with the commanding officer of USS Chicago, Illinois native Cmdr. Nick Tilbrook and Commander, Submarine Force, U.S Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell.
"To all the 721 Club members, thank you for what you bring to this crew, this ship and the submarine force. I know of some of the support that you've provided over the years, but I think that only scratches the surface. I am continually astounded at the level and depth of your commitment to USS Chicago," said Caldwell. "I am confident that with this exceptional ship, this extraordinary crew, and the support of their incredible families and the 721 Club that USS Chicago is well positioned for a successful future."
USS Chicago completed an Engineered Refueling Overhaul Oct. 27 at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. While in overhaul, ship's systems were upgraded to ensure Chicago will be able to meet future tasking as the ship is transitioned early next year from its current homeport in Hawaii to being forward deployed to Guam.
USS Chicago will replace USS Houston (SSN 713), maintaining three submarines forward deployed to Guam. Forward-deployed submarines are readily capable of meeting global operational requirements. Guam's strategic location enhances military force flexibility. Its location allows freedom of action, regional engagement, crisis response and deterrence, while helping to fulfill commitments to U.S. allies and partners to protect our nation's security.
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