HIGHLANDS – The Executive Officer and five other members of the pre-commissioned Submarine New Jersey, (SSN-796) made the first of what is planned to be almost a dozen visits to New Jersey over the next several months, visiting five counties and a variety of historical, recreational and educational facilities as well as performing community service, all welcomed by state, county and local officials, in a trip arranged and funded by the New Jersey Submarine Commissioning Committee.

The Committee, a 501.3 non -profit organization, focuses on fundraising to support the commissioning events, and coordination and participation 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, said the that this first weekend visit brought the boat’s crew from Newport News, VA., where the boat is nearing construction completion to sites in Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, Warren and Camden counties. Subsequent visits will be made in other counties throughout the state before the boat is placed into active duty service.

Accompanying the XO, Lt. CDR Nicholas Tuuk, were Chief FIRST Steven Newton, a native of Ocean Township and four enlisted men from Kansas, Georgia, Ohio and Texas. Two of the four Sailors had been in New Jersey before, but the visit was limited to the New Jersey Turnpike enroute from duties stations in Connecticut and Virginia.

LCDR Tuuk pointed out the weekend excursions to the state 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 navy, the submarine service, and the first crew on a boat in which they can take great pride.

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Jackson Pines and Cranston Dean in residency at Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park
Jackson Pines and Cranston Dean at Langosta

The submarine will be the third naval vessel named for the Garden State. The first (BB-16), served in WW1. The second (BB-62) served in multiple wars, and is the most decorated warship in US history. It currently resides as a museum in Camden, NJ. The submarine will be the 15th Virginia-class submarine, supporting our national defense with an extensive list of capabilities.

Arriving from the boat, which is undergoing final construction before commissioning scheduled for late 2022, the crew visited Monmouth County where they met NJROTC cadets at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, toured historic Fort Hancock, both on Sandy Hook in the Gateway National Recreation Area, and had the opportunity to see a gun barrel from the Battleship New Jersey, now in place at Hartshorne Woods, a Monmouth County park preserving the history of Battery Lewis, a World War II defense installation in Highlands.

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.

Submarine New Jersey crew members helped Boy Scout Troop 18 and Hope Force volunteers clean up debris at homes in Manville hit hard by recent storms
Submarine New Jersey crew members helped Boy Scout Troop 18 and Hope Force volunteers clean up debris at homes in Manville hit hard by recent storms

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.

Throughout the weekend, the crew was welcomed by local, county and state legislators who expressed thanks and appreciation for their service as well as the pride of the citizens of New Jersey to have a submarine named in its honor. Among those welcoming the Sailors were State Assemblyman William Spearman, the district representing Camden County, Monmouth County Commissioner Lillian G. Burry, Old Bridge Councilman Erik DePalma, and Manville Mayor Richard Onderko.

MAST Cadets and Submarine New Jersey crew and County Commissioner Lillian Burry
Cadets in NJROTC unit at MAST with crew members of Submarine New Jersey and Monmouth County Commissioner Lillian G. Burry

“A major objective of this first weekend is development of the communications component” 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 States Navy.”

To learn more about the boat and its crew, as well as the progress of its final construction stages, visit njcommissioning.org.

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