Crew members from the submarine USS New Jersey (SSN796), accompanied by the ship’s commanding officer Cdr. Carlos Otero, made a second visit to the Garden State sponsored by the New Jersey Submarine Commissioning Committee. The Committee is raising funds and planning activities over the next year before the boat’s anticipated commissioning ceremony, scheduled for mid-2023.
A series of additional visits to various parts of the state are in the planning stage. Additionally, the crew is scheduled to participate in Navy Fleet activities in Trenton in May.
In each of the visits, crew members visit a variety of historical, recreational and educational facilities, perform community service and outreach, and receive welcomes from state, county and local officials during trips arranged and funded by the Commissioning Committee.
The Committee, a 501(c)(3)non -profit organization, focuses on fundraising to support the events, and coordination and participation in the US Navy’s planned relationship building between the boat and the state for which it is named.
On this most recent visit, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, herself a former Navy helicopter pilot, welcomed the crew to Morris County and the 11th Congressional District she represents, as well as hosted a tailgate party before the Army Navy game at MetLife Stadium. The tailgate party included a special presentation - ETV2 Diego Ramirez was promoted to his present rank, with Congresswoman Sherrill reading the orders and Commander Otero presenting Ramirez with his new chevron.
“As a Navy veteran and New Jersey Congresswoman, it’s clear that there was no better choice for the Navy’s newest submarine than designating it the USS NEW JERSEY,” said Rep. Sherrill. “It was an honor to meet and host members of her crew last month at the Army-Navy game in the Meadowlands. I am especially proud that the USS NEW JERSEY is the first sub purpose-built to be crewed by both men and women. “
The Congresswoman also applauded the crew’s efforts to make a point of building a relationship with the people of the state and added “I received assurances that they would look into serving disco fries and Taylor ham in the mess.”
Looking forward, Sherrill said she is hopeful the boat can be commissioned in the Garden State and jokingly promised the crew “some of our famous Jersey tomatoes in the summer!”
“ I know the men and women of the USS NEW JERSEY will help ensure the promises in our state slogan of liberty and prosperity,” the Congresswoman concluded.
Attendance at the Army Navy game gave the submarine and crew a chance to be recognized by over 80,000 fans and get national television exposure. Crew members had an opportunity to observe pre-game activities on the field, and watched much of the game as guests of Governor Phil Murphy.
In what rapidly became a tradition for each of the crew visits to New Jersey, crew members also visited the Battleship New Jersey (BB62) museum in Camden and added their names to the banner exhibited in the museum’s room dedicated to the state’s first submarine named in its honor.
In an action packed weekend , the crew experienced a bit of NJ culture - a typical New Jersey breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton. Crew members also held a Youth Outreach event at Colts Neck High School, where they presented to over 80 local youths, including JNROTC units, Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, and local high school students. An appreciation dinner was held at Eagle Oaks Country Club, arranged Major Greg Penzcak, USMC, (ret) head naval science instructor at Colts Neck High School and hosted by the Honor Day Committee from the country club. Eagle Oaks has a long-standing tradition of military support, including their annual Fleet Week event Honor Day. Domenic F. Gatto, Chairman and president of the Club and a veteran himself said “we know that freedom is not free. It is our privilege and honor to host a well-deserved evening of food and relaxation for these courageous and brave men and women who so valiantly and selflessly serve our country. Our members are delighted and honored to share their club for the day.”
Gatto was thankful for the plaque presented by USS NJ Commander Carlos Otero to the Club which was placed in the Club’s “War Room” that features other military memorabilia presented to the Club.
The crew traveled to Washington’s Crossing and attended the annual December reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware. The visit included a tour by Charles Maddox (historical interpreter for this National Park), interaction with the more than 4000 attendees, and a ride in one of the Durham boats. They then departed for Norfolk VA, where they are stationed while the boat is completing construction.
The submarine will be the third naval vessel named for the Garden State. The first (BB-16), served in WW1. The second (BB-62) , the museum in Camden, served in multiple wars, and is the most decorated warship in US history. The submarine will be the 15th Virginia-class submarine, supporting our national defense with an extensive list of capabilities.
“I feel strongly that each member of the crew should have an opportunity to personally experience the history and culture of the Garden State,” Cdr. Otero said after the visit. “We want to be able to positively represent both the Navy and the great state of New Jersey as we carry on the legacy of Battleship NEW JERSEY (BB-62), the most decorated warship to have served in the fleet. We on NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) are proud to continue these namesake visits and look forward to many more in the future.”
In addition to CDR Otero and ETV2 Ramirez, other Sailors making the trip to New Jersey, many for the first time, included LTJG Matthew Dods, STSCM Hamilton Felt, STS3 Gianmarco Corral, ETV1 Garek Pudder, ETVSA Dewayne Rhone, STS3 Adam Dipasquale, STS3 Christian McDill and STS2 Christopher Baldwin
Persons wishing to learn more about the ship and committee, or donate to the Committee’s fund raising efforts to continue to support additional crew visits to New Jersey can visit their website at https://njcommissioning.org.