When thinking about South Dakota, naval prowess might not be the first thing to come to mind. Still, our state has a strong and proud naval history – from the men and women who have answered the call to serve to the ships that have borne the name USS South Dakota.
In the twentieth century, two naval battleships were named after our great state: the USS South Dakota (ACR-9) commissioned in 1908 and the USS South Dakota (BB-57) commissioned in 1942. The BB-57 was one of the most decorated warships of World War II.
Now, our state is being honored a third time. The U.S. Navy has commissioned a new USS South Dakota, the SSN-790. This Virginia-class submarine is already under construction and is expected to be completed in August of 2018. It will be the first submarine to bear the name USS South Dakota.
This namesake will be more than a fleeting, ceremonial connection between the new submarine and our state. A commissioning committee has been brought aboard to support events surrounding the submarine’s keel laying, christening and commissioning. Perhaps more importantly, the committee will work to forge a relationship between the state and the submarine for the duration of its service.
This coming week, we will start to build that relationship when the USS South Dakota’s commanding officer, Commander Ronald Withrow, and four members of the boat’s crew will be visiting South Dakota.
They won’t be able to make it to all of the great places in South Dakota, but they are doing their best to fit as much as possible into a few short days.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, they’ll be visiting the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial, meeting with veterans groups and stopping at a school in Sioux Falls. The next day they’ll stop in Pierre where Commander Withrow will address both houses of the Legislature and the group will visit the Cultural Heritage Center.
Then on Friday the group will travel west to spend time at the Ellsworth Airforce Base, go to the Black Hills Stock Show, and experience America’s “Shrine of Democracy.”
I look forward to meeting Commander Withrow and the crew members. It is sure to be a good visit, and it won’t be the only visit. I also look forward to supporting the commissioning committee as they work to raise funds, talk to people across the state about the USS South Dakota and develop long lasting ties with the crew of the boat.
The SSN 790 represents more than just a submarine. It offers an opportunity to continue the USS South Dakota’s history of protecting our nation.