Future USS Idaho crewmembers visit namesake state
01 February 2023
BOISE, Idaho - Groton-based crewmembers, attached to the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Idaho (SSN 799), wrapped up a week-long tour of their namesake state in Boise, Idaho, Feb. 1.
Six sailors from future Virginia-class submarine - Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Darrell Smith, Chief of the Boat Master Chief Petty Officer Travis Skipper, Lt. Beckett Lemley, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Teal, Petty Officer 2nd Class Peyton Freck, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Gianni Luzzetti - toured the state to learn more of Idaho’s rich history and military traditions, as well as share their Navy stories and build relationships in the community.
“It’s been an amazing trip so far,” said Smith during a visit to Weiser High School in Weiser, Idaho. “Everywhere we go, it’s been a wide, warm welcome in Idaho.”
“This whole trip has been humbling,” said Skipper at the same event in Weiser. “The amount of pride and patriotism that the state of Idaho has, it’s definitely opened our eyes and we’re thankful to be named the Idaho.”
Former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who acted as host for the ship’s commissioning committee, praised the crew’s impact on the people of Idaho during the numerous public events.
“Just last night, for example, at a Boise State basketball game,” Kempthorne explained. “When the crew was introduced, it was an immediate standing ovation, which was as sincere and strong cheer as any play that ever happened in that auditorium.”
Kempthorne added that the people of Idaho, even those who know of the submarine, prefer to shake hands with the crew members, calling the interactions a “beautiful bond that is existing between the ship and state.”
The basketball game was one of two high-visibility sporting events - the other during an Idaho Steelheads professional hockey game - that the crewmembers took center court and ice to greet cheering fans.
Smith led the crowd in three cheers of ‘Let it be forever,’ the ship’s rallying cry and the English translation of the state’s motto, Esto Perpetua.”
The crew members visited the state capital to meet with sitting Gov. Brad Little, as well as other state officials. They also toured the campuses of the College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University, as well as two high schools in Caldwell and Weiser, Idaho. And most importantly, they paid their respects to veterans at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery in Boise.
“The crewmembers and students paid respects to the recently deceased Mr. Clark Syme, believed to be the last surviving World War II submarine veteran in Idaho,” said Lemley, who serves as the ship’s navigator, during the event at Caldwell High School. “The students then asked questions of the crew and participated in the USS Idaho battle cry, ‘let it be forever!’”
After three days of shaking hands and wowing audiences in the capital region, the crew changed from their dress uniforms to winter gear for four days of winter activities in Idaho’s northern mountains. The activities included snowmobiling, sleigh rides, a winter carnival parade, and Idaho’s annual Sled Dog Challenge, before the crew made their way back to Boise for a farewell dinner.
“The crew was welcomed warmly and got to count down the start of one of the dog teams,” Lemley added. Lemley also commented on the crew’s snowmobiling experience, stating “the crew covered over 40 miles on their way to Burgdorf, for the hot springs, and then to Warren, a small mining town where we ate dinner and rested for the night.”
Kempthorne, when asked about the crew’s overall visit, stated his time with the crew allowed him to “see it from both perspectives.”
“I see the excitement that the sailors are experiencing, and that they’ve said we’ve never seen such patriotism,” Kempthorne said. “And how the people [of Idaho] support so immediately.”
Kempthorne added that during a previous state visit, crewmembers collected water from multiple lakes in Idaho to be used for the ship’s christening ceremony.
“We went to the different lakes in Idaho gathering the water, which will all go into the champagne bottle,” Kempthorne explained. “So that when Terry Stackley, our sponsor, christens the boat, the first water that will touch the bow of the USS Idaho will be the waters of Idaho.”
The future USS Idaho - currently being built at General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut - is scheduled to be the 26th Virginia-class submarine to join the fleet and eighth in the Block IV of the class. The Block IV submarines are notable for incorporating smaller-scale design changes that increase the number of deployments a sub can complete for each period of regular shipyard maintenance.
SSN 799 will be the fifth U.S. Navy ship to be named for the Gem State. The last ship to carry the name was a New Mexico-class battleship that served during World War II. The future USS Idaho will be homeported in Groton and operate under Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 4.
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or response to regional crises.