GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Amdur became the officer-in-charge of the U.S. Navy's oldest and first nuclear-powered submarine when he assumed responsibility for the Historic Ship Nautilus (SSN 571) in a ceremony here, May 14.
Amdur's previous position was as the engineer officer of the Navy's soon-to-be newest nuclear-powered submarine, the Pre Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784).
Amdur knew when he reported to the North Dakota (SSN 784) that he would be transferring to the Nautilus museum as follow on orders, and he was looking forward to it.
"I have a personal interest in history, and this is two jobs in one. You are the officer-in-charge of the Nautilus, but you are also the director of the Submarine Force Museum," Amdur explained. "It is an opportunity to get involved with and be a part of interpreting and displaying our history, both to our current Sailors, veterans of the submarine force and the general public. I have always enjoyed that interaction with the public. I am very excited about what I do as a submarine officer. There are very few jobs out there that would allow me to interact with the public the way this one will."
Being a local in the community, he looks forward to interacting with the public.
"I grew up in southeastern Connecticut, and I am interested in opportunities to reach out to the local community a little bit more and see what other opportunities there are for involvement with some other local organizations," Amdur said. "There is a lot of nautical and Naval history here between the Submarine Base, Coast Guard Academy and General Dynamics Electric Boat."
The Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered ship, was commissioned Sept. 30, 1954. As the first of its kind, the submarine was a trendsetter for all future nuclear submarines. Some of its historic firsts include the first ship to cross the North Pole, the first nuclear ship to undergo a complete overhaul and logging more than 300,000 miles underway. After more than a quarter century of U.S. Naval service, the ship was retired at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, Calif. March 3, 1980.
Two years later, the Secretary of the Interior designated the ship a national historic landmark. After undergoing a historic ship conversion, Nautilus was towed back to Groton, and on April 11, 1986, the ship and the Submarine Force Museum both opened to the public. Amdur now finds himself in charge of 25-30 active-duty service members that perform two main tasks.
"The active-duty crew is here primarily to conduct maintenance and provide physical security for the boat," Amdur said. "The boat is decommissioned and will not ever be re-commissioned, but it is still sitting in salt water. There is preservation that still needs to be done and there are still things on it that need to be monitored and maintained, from simple things like changing out the light bulbs and making sure the boat stays clean, to preserving equipment as time takes its toll."
Amdur is impressed with the jump from the North Dakota to Nautilus.
"It's a pretty amazing jump," Amdur said. "Now that I am becoming familiar in a detailed level with both of them, I am amazed every day at how far we have come in 50 years of nuclear power, and, as a credit to the original nuclear designers of Nautilus, I am also amazed on a regular basis at the similarities between them. How many things they got right the first time. Going back into the Nautilus and looking at the systems, the technology has changed, but not so much that you cannot tell what you are looking at."
While he is reporting to the original nuclear powered submarine a year before the ship's 60th anniversary, ironically it was the experience he gained in the newer boat that helped him prepare.
PCU North Dakota, named July 15, 2008, is a Virginia-class submarine, the second ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for the state. The contract to build the submarine was awarded to Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Groton on Aug. 14, 2003. SSN-784 will feature a revised bow including some technology from Ohio class SSGNs. This is the second ship to bear the name North Dakota. The first ship, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, was in service from 1910 through 1923. PCU North Dakota is expected to be delivered in 2014.
Amdur was impressed with his shipmates' work while assigned to the North Dakota.
"The North Dakota crew was one of the best commands that I have ever worked with. I would say that about my department, about the command leadership and about the crew in general," Amdur said. "They were very enthusiastic, very hard working and the quality of the Sailors there was second to none."
The process of commissioning a vessel is considered arduous duty, and Amdur found it a challenging and rewarding experience.
"All the programs, all the instructions, the training programs, you are starting from ground zero," Amdur said. "You show up to the boat with a brand new crew that has never worked together, about half of them have never even been on a submarine and are straight out of the training pipeline, and you have to qualify them all. There is nobody there that has been there for years or months [on the sub] that others can learn from. The crew spends periods of time in shift work as well to support the testing of a new vessel."
While he was glad to be a part of the change of charge ceremony, he knows that the ship has been in good hands all along and wants that to be his legacy as well.
"Every person that comes into this job is going to have a little bit different focus on what they think the boat needs and how to try and improve it," Amdur said. "My predecessors have done a great job of improving the command, both materially and the crew itself. I hope to continue that trend."
For more information on the history of the Nautilus, visit the Navy History and Heritage Command website at http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/Nautilus/index.html .
For the Submarine Force Museum and Historic Ship Nautilus information, please visit http://www.ussnautilus.org/ .
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy .
For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/ .