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Locals watch commissioning of Navy’s nuclear submarine

Joyce and Erland Alto pose at the USS Minnesota commissioning Saturday, Sept. 7 in Norfolk, Va. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
This is the official logo of the USS Minesota.2 / 2

By Anna Erickson

Nevis residents Erland and Joyce Alto had the opportunity to watch the commissioning of the U.S. Navy’s newest Virginia-class attack submarine, the USS Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 7 in Norfolk, Va.

Erland was invited to be one of eight members of the American Legion from Minnesota at the event.

“It was a very exciting experience,” he said. “I served in the Navy for 20 years and was on three submarines.”

The newest submarine is much different than the other submarines Erland was on during his service. He rose to Master Chief Mechanic on USS Triton, and was on board in 1960 for the first submerged circumnavigation of earth.

“There’s not much more room but the living conditions are much better,” he said.

Minnesota, the 10th ship of the Virginia class, is named in honor of the state’s citizens and their continued support of the nation’s military.

“Minnesota and the success of our Virginia-class submarine program prove that acquisition excellence is a key element of building the future fleet,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a news release. “The work of the more than a thousand shipyard craftsmen and engineers who built this boat have helped make the fleet stronger and our nation safer. Their dedication and expertise led to the delivery of the world’s most advanced submarine almost a year ahead of schedule and on budget.”

This is the third ship to bear the state name. The first USS Minnesota, a sailing steam frigate, was commissioned in 1857 and served during the Civil War, remaining in service until her decommissioning in 1898.

The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. On Dec. 16, 1907 she departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet sent by then-President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world. She continued her service through World War I and was decommissioned in 1921.

The submarine will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the 21st century.

During a tour of the submarine, Erland noticed the technology was much improved from the submarines he was on during his service.

“This doesn’t even have a periscope,” he said.

Minnesota has improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements.

Designated SSN 783, Minnesota is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare missions. Capable of operating in both the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters, Minnesota will directly enable five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

The 7,800-ton Minnesota is built under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries. A crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel will operate the 377-feet long, 34-foot beam vessel, which will be able to dive to depths of greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. Minnesota is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship - reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

Erland was honored to be able to be part of the commissioning of the submarine. He received some money from the Park Rapids American Legion Post 212 to help with transportation costs.

While at the commissioning, Erland discovered that the Commander’s mother-in-law is a sister to Floyd Harvala of Harvala Appliance in Park Rapids, who Erland has known for years.

If Erland hadn’t been wearing his American Legion Park Rapids cap, he wouldn’t have been recognized and wouldn’t have known about the connection to the Harvalas.

Several other Minnesota dignitaries were at the commissioning, including Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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