Submitted by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nancy diBenedetto
Commander, Submarine Group 9 Public Affairs
Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) demonstrated high-quality service and experienced local culture during a namesake visit to the Pacific Northwest, March 16-21, that included a series of engagements with key civic and government leaders, and locally-based organizations in the Washington State capital city of Olympia and surrounding areas.
Olympia arrived March 16 at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, about 60 miles north of Olympia, and local community leaders, military supporters and family members greeted a 100-member crew at the pier.
Crew members bussed in to Olympia from Bremerton each day throughout the port visit to participate in community relations projects, tour the state capitol campus and surrounding attractions, and meet with community members.
“USS Olympia came from Pearl Harbor to the Pacific Northwest specifically for a namesake visit,” said Olympia commanding officer, Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, a native of Prescott, Arizona. “We are happy to bus the crew down here to build relationships with the city. As I’ve told the crew, the city loves the ship, and the ship loves the city. We have a great relationship.”
The day following their arrival, Sailors split up into four groups and spread out across the city to complete projects like filling 1000 backpacks with food to feed homeless children, assisting at two food banks, and clearing indigenous brush from forested areas in Little Baseball Association (LBA) park ahead of Arbor Day celebrations in April.
“The crew members of Olympia, as with so many Sailors, want to use their lives to serve,” said Selph. “And giving back to the city is just a small way to do that, to demonstrate partnership with the city.”
Jenn Butti, volunteer coordinator for Thurston Food Bank, expressed excitement and gratitude for the Sailors’ assistance. “We are excited to have Sailors here, we’ve been really looking forward to this, and this is really special,” said Butti. “Being able to connect with the Sailors, to connect with people who are doing so much for our county, and the fact that they want to spend part of their time giving back to our community is amazing.”
The Sailors saw firsthand the mission of the community to eliminate hunger around the city. Many of the programs target children who are homeless and promote nutrition for families at no cost. “It’s pretty cool the things that they do for the people and their community,” said Electronics Technician 3rd class Chinonye Madu. “This is the namesake of the boat, so we are glad to help out. It’s good to be in relationships with the community. Knowing that we are helping out the people and the community is good, especially because we will be returning here in the future.”
After tours on March 19, an award ceremony was held on the 42 steps of the Capitol rotunda, which commemorates Washington as the 42nd state. In front of an assembled crowd, one Sailor reenlisted, and two Sailors were awarded Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals in recognition of successful completion of their assignments aboard the ship. The Olympia Yacht Club also hosted a lunch for the crew, where Sonar Technician 3rd Class Louis A. Osornio was presented with his submarine enlisted warfare device, also known as “dolphins.”
The final day of their visit, the crew enjoyed liberty in downtown Olympia and enjoyed a luncheon hosted by the Olympia Host Lions club.
USS Olympia is the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after Olympia, Washington. Commissioned on Nov. 17, 1984, Olympia is the 29th ship of the Los Angeles-class nuclear powered fast-attack submarines. The submarine is 362-feet long, displaces 6,900 tons and can be armed with sophisticated Mark-48 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.