IN THE MILITARY
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cmdr. John Russ, skipper of the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Honolulu, showed Mayor Mufi Hannemann one of three surfboards stored on the sub. During each deployment, Honolulu crew members sign a surfboard. Hannemann this week added his name to the 10th surfboard, which will mark the Honolulu's final cruise.
USS Honolulu set for its final sail
The Pearl Harbor sub will begin its last deployment April 15
COME OCTOBER the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Honolulu will slide into a Puget Sound Naval Shipyard berth to be retired.
And soon after, "there will be a scramble to see who gets the surfboards" representing each of the USS Honolulu's 10 deployments during the past two decades, says its skipper, Cmdr. John Russ.
USS HONOLULU (SSN 718)
Class: Los Angeles
Commissioned: July 6, 1985
Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft
Length: 360 feet
Beam: 33 feet
Displacement: About 6,900 tons
Speed: In excess of 20 knots (23 mph)
Crew: 18 Officers, 130 Enlisted
Armament: Tomahawk missiles and MK-48 torpedoes.
Source: U.S. Navy
The six-foot surfboards were signed by members of the crew during each deployment, Russ said. Three are kept on the sub and the rest stored at Pearl Harbor -- its home for the past 20 years.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Avery, who served his first tour on the USS Honolulu, or "Hono," from 1998-2003, said one of the signings occurred on an ice floe at the end of its first Arctic mission.
Avery, 43, will be among the 120 enlisted sailors and 19 officers who will sail on the Honolulu's last cruise when it leaves Pearl Harbor shortly after an April 15 farewell ceremony. When that western Pacific deployment is completed, the submarine won't return to Pearl Harbor, but will be taken to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Avery said many of his good memories on the "Hono" involve "training its crew, seeing it evolve until it was awarded a 'Battle E,' meaning it was the top boat in the squadron."
Commissioned in 1985, the Honolulu has been part of the Pacific Fleet since 1986. It is the 97th attack nuclear submarine and the 31st of the Los Angeles class.
It is the third ship named after the city of Honolulu. The first was a cargo ship that was part of the Navy fleet from 1918-1919. It was followed by a light cruiser commissioned in 1938 and placed in the inactive fleet in 1946.
On Wednesday, Mayor Mufi Hannemann visited his city's namesake since he will be on an international trip and will miss this month's farewell ceremony. Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who commanded the Honolulu from 1991 to 1993 and is now 7th Fleet commander, will be a guest speaker, along with Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and Adm. Gary Roughead, Pacific Fleet commander.
After getting a brief tour of the sub's control and sonar rooms, Hannemann had lunch with several members, including Petty Officers Robert Haas and Alan Engle.
Hannemann, who is 6 feet 7 inches tall, had to crouch in certain areas of the control room that had a six-foot ceiling.
After the orientation visit, Hannemann said he leaves the warship "with a much more profound appreciation of what the USS Honolulu has meant to our defense capabilities and the mission it has had through the years."
He added that he was "sort of sad that we will lose the namesake of our city and such an important submarine in terms of what it has done for Pearl Harbor and what it means for our country."
The mayor said that it would be nice if another Navy warship could be named after Honolulu.
Although none is planned, Pearl Harbor will be getting one of the latest and longer, $2.6 billion, 377-foot Virginia class of nuclear subs -- the USS Hawaii -- next year.
The Virginia class was developed after the Navy re-examined its sub program following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The subs are designed to be a cheaper alternative to the Seawolf class and work both in the deep ocean and in shallow waters as a special weapons platform.
The USS Hawaii is the third Virginia-class submarine the Navy will build. The first two are the USS Virginia and the USS Texas.
Five years ago, the Navy deactivated another Hawaii namesake, the USS Kamehameha, the last Benjamin Franklin-class nuclear sub. Hawaii's only other remaining namesake, the 609-foot dock-landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, is berthed in San Diego.
Besides thanking the crew for its service, Hannemann signed the 10th deployment surf board.
Russ, who became the Honolulu's ninth and last skipper in October 2004, said it has been "a nice opportunity to serve on a namesake city submarine in its namesake city.
"So many of these submarines have a namesake city but they are so far away," said Russ .
Avery, who has served on four subs during his 23 years in the Navy, said he wants to ensure the Honolulu "is treated properly during her last tour.