PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The crew of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) recently welcomed members of the Air Force Civic Leader program as they toured the submarine at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oct. 16.
The group, comprised of approximately 30 civilian community leaders from across the United States, serves as a volunteer advisory panel to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III. The group's purpose in Hawaii was to learn more about the Pacific Rebalance, and experience a firsthand look at multiple service operations in the Pacific.
The group was escorted by the vice commander of Pacific Air Forces, Maj. Gen. Paul McGillicuddy, and his wife MaryJo, and Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook, director of Air Force Public Affairs.
"Today is a wonderful day to showcase USS Columbus," said Columbus' commanding officer, Cmdr. Albert Alarcon upon greeting the advisory group. "It's essential for leaders to gain perspective of what the submarine force is capable of accomplishing, and most importantly to showcase the talent and capability of the young men that proudly comprise Columbus' crew. My intentions are to showcase that very talent as you tour the ship today."
During the tour, Sailors talked about their spaces, their responsibilities, and duties aboard the submarine. The guests had the opportunity to see and hear about daily operations on the submarine including the control room, the torpedo room, and galley.
For Caleb Chandler, a civic leader from New Mexico, this was his first chance to meet with Sailors on an active submarine.
"It's been great; very informative," said Chandler. "We've learned some things you wouldn't really think about until you hear Sailors say, 'this is how we do this.' We really appreciate this visit."
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Jacob Bierman from Columbus' Weapons department was enthusiastic in explaining his role on board to the guests.
"The crowd seemed genuinely interested in the information that I presented to them," said Bierman, from Grand Haven, Michigan. "It's cool to see their reactions to what kind of information that we were telling them, and they were very appreciative."
The senior uniformed Air Force officials were equally impressed.
"It is an amazing tour," said Maj. Gen. McGillicuddy. "Seeing the Sailors and what they do, and how proud they are of what they are doing. It's just amazing how across all the services we have great Americans signing up to do these jobs. It is great Americans doing great things for the country. I couldn't be more proud of what we are seeing here today."
The strategic impact that submarines and their crews play to the security of the nation was also noted by Brig. Gen. Cook.
"In this area of responsibility, it is extremely important that you are great at what you do. It is clear to me after this visit that every one of those Sailors is impressive," said Cook. "It is very comforting to know that with a significant mission like this, you have Sailors out there that absolutely know what they are doing."
Cook said she is amazed at how young many Sailors are, entrusted with one of the nation's greatest assets.
"These Sailors are younger than my children," added Cook. "But their professionalism and the manner in which they explain their equipment - it all comes across in what they do."
Kay Yeager, a civic leader from Wichita Falls, Texas, said she appreciated getting to see other military branches and the chance to get a glimpse of what submariners do.
"This gives me a great sense of admiration for the men and women who do this," said Yeager. "They have the stamina to stay under the water as long as they do without seeing daylight."
After taking some final questions from the tour group, Alarcon concluded with remarks about the life blood of the ship.
"Columbus has a strong reputation for operational success and it comes down to the great effort that our crew exerts every day," said Alarcon. "The lasting impression that I want to leave with you leaders today, is how great my crew is; the men that I am so proud of every day."
USS Columbus is the 51st Los Angeles-class submarine and the 12th improved version of this class, which includes a vertical launch system for Tomahawk cruise missiles and an improved hull design for under-ice operations. She completed a post-shipyard maintenance availability period in June 1994 in Groton, Connecticut, after initial construction and shakedown operations. In September 1994, USS Columbus conducted an inter-fleet transfer to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force.
For more information about Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.csp.navy.mil.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/subpac/.