NORFOLK (NNS) -- The crew of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Minnesota (SSN 783) showed their solidarity and support for the "Red Bulls" of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division serving in Kuwait by participating in a banner exchange in late March.
The concept for the exchange was launched in late February by Cmdr. John Fancher, PCU Minnesota's (SSN 783) commanding officer and Col. John Morris, state chaplain for the Minnesota National Guard.
"One team, one fight," said Morris. "We honor the crew of the USS Minnesota and greatly respect their critically important mission."
Fancher and Morris both agreed that they wanted to use this banner exchange to demonstrate to the deployed national guardsmen from the land of 10,000 lakes that the crew of Minnesota appreciates their service.
"My crew and I wanted to participate in this banner exchange to show our support for those deployed and provide a direct link with our crew aboard PCU Minnesota," said Fancher.
With the crew's signatures and well wishes written on the banner, a second banner to be signed by the "Red Bulls" were carried by Morris more than 6,000 miles to Kuwait. The banner was later signed by the Minnesota National Guardsmen and returned to Norfolk affixed with signatures from Kuwait.
"Our deployed citizen-soldiers were eager to sign the banner to express their appreciation for the crew of their home state's namesake, PCU Minnesota," said Morris. "More than a decade of war has forged strong bonds amongst all military branches within the profession of arms, and the Red Bulls know that the Sailors serving aboard the Minnesota will bring great pride to our state for years to come."
Morris recently attended the annual Minnesota Navy League meeting. The League's Vice President Brian Skon relayed what Morris shared with the League and the impact the banner had on the deployed National Guardsman from Minnesota.
"The PCU Minnesota signed banner brought to Kuwait was well received," said Skon. "In fact, so many Red Bulls wanted to sign the banner being sent back to PCU Minnesota in gratitude that people back home were thinking about them, including the crew of Minnesota, that a lottery had to be taken to sign the banner."
As a result of the response of the banner exchange, the Minnesota Navy League made copies of the two banners, one resides in the offices of PCU Minnesota and another resides in Kuwait to show support from home.
Under construction and scheduled for delivery in 2013, PCU Minnesota will be the 10th of a projected 30 Virginia-class submarines. This will be only the third ship to be named after Minnesota, with the last one being more than a century ago in 1905.
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