Updated: Oct 9
HIGHLANDS – The Executive Officer and five other members of the pre-commissioned Submarine New Jersey, (SSN-796) toured historical recreational and educational facilities in Monmouth County recently, the first of several such trips arranged and designed by the New Jersey Submarine Commissioning Committee.
The Committee, a 501.3 non -profit organization, focuses on fundraising to support the commissioning events, and participates in the US Navy’s planned relationship building between the boat and the state for which it is named.
Peter Engelman, a member of the Committee, planned the first weekend evening which brought the boat’s crew from Newport News, Va., where the boat is nearing construction completion to the Bayshore area of Monmouth County.
Accompanying the XO, Lt. CDR Nicholas Tuuk, were Chief Machinist Mate Steven Newton, a native of Ocean Township, and four enlisted men, one from Kansas, and the other three from Georgia, Ohio and Texas. Two of the four Sailors had been in New Jersey before, but only on the New Jersey Turnpike enroute from duties station is in Connecticut and Virginia.
Lt. CDR. Tuuk pointed out the weekend excursions to various parts of New Jersey give crew members the opportunity to build a relationship so they can take pride in the state for which their boat is named while at the same time New Jersey residents can know more about the first crew on a boat in which they can take great pride.
This is the third Naval vessel named for the Garden State, the first BB61, replaced by the second BB62, were both battleships, and the
Following time and photos with the students, the Sailors were then escorted by Shawn Welch, co-chairman of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Committee, on a tour of the battery and other historic sites on Fort Hancock, the 18th century military installation on Sandy Hook, and part of America’s history since the Revolution.
The crew then crossed the CAPT. Joseph Azzolina Bridge that spans the Shrewsbury River between Sandy Hook and Highlands. The bridge is named for the late Naval captain who once served on BB62 and was the primary person for having the battleship returned to New Jersey to become a museum. At Hartshorne Woods County Park in Highlands, Monmouth County historian Gail Hunton and Chief Ranger Ryan Radice joined Welch and the crew in a tour of Battery Lewis, a vital New York Harbor defense during WWII, where the gun barrel from the World War II BB62 is on display at the battery.
The crew ended the day with dinner at Bahrs Restaurant, a century old restaurant known for its seafood, and stayed the first of two nights at NWS Earle barracks in Colts Neck. Crew members stayed two nights at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck. They journeyed to Camden on the second day to tour the battleship museum and present to executive officers and guests of the United States Power Squadrons in NJ. They returned north to Old Bridge in Middlesex County, where they assisted at a car wash sponsored by the local AFROTC students and met with students from a variety of youth groups. During evening relaxation at Vinnie Brandt’s Stress Factory Comedy Club in New Brunswick, NJ – the team was introduced to the audience 120+ patrons and was invited on stage to discuss the submarine and their roles in supporting its mission.
Day three activities focused on Hurricane Ida cleanup. The team assisted Boy Scout Troop 18 members in cleanup efforts in Manville in Somerset County, a town hard hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ida and fires, helping to restore a home destroyed by flooding. At East Amwell, in Hunterdon County, crew members joined volunteers of Hope Force, an international Christian group whose mission is to alleviate suffering for those affected from disasters. The community assistance in which the crew participated in both counties is indicative of their commitment to perform similar services for other communities in future visits to New Jersey.
“A major goal of this is first weekend of familiarization is the communications role” Engelman said. “We want to communicate the story of this new Virginia class submarine. We invite everyone to follow `the story of the boat and look for the date of its commissioning and introduction into active duty in the United State Navy. Persons can learn more about the boat and its crew, as well as the progress of its final construction stages, at njcommissioning.org