Members of the Sun City Buckeye Club enjoyed a rare tour of a ballistic missile submarine when they traveled to the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. It took the group three tries to get a confirmed date to see a modern submarine in the U.S. Navy's "Silent Service," as the submarine force is known.
Jack Carson, a former submariner, coordinated a tour for 40 members of the group. It included a visit to the USS Maryland, an Ohio-class submarine.
"It was one of the most fabulous trips," Carson said, "like me getting on a submarine out of New London for the first time."
Carson joined the U.S. Naval Reserve following his junior year in high school and trained as a torpedoman, responsible for the maintenance and operation of torpedoes.
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"The difference is night and day," said Carson, comparing his experiences with what he saw on the tour. "I served on a fleet type, Balao Class World War II diesel power subs. The only two things I saw that they both still had in common was the way that they dive and surface by flooding the tanks and then blowing the tanks as they surfaced. The other is we had bow planes and stern planes to keep us steady diving and then surfacing. They still have the same bow planes and stern planes but now the bow planes are coming out of the sail where the conning tower is."
The group spent the day meeting and speaking with submariners, eating lunch in the base galley and touring the world's only Trident Training Facility. The tour of the Maryland took the group through each of the submarine's compartments where crewmembers explained the functions of the equipment.
While at the training center, guests observed the training required by every sailor who serves aboard a ballistic missile submarine, including hands-on experiences that qualify them to deal with any on-board emergency.
Following a short bus ride, the group toured the submarine museum in St. Marys, Ga. The museum houses 5,000 square feet of World War II submarine equipment, records from World War II submarine patrols, torpedoes, deep-sea diving suits, ship plaques, uniforms and a working periscope.
"The one thing that I did miss touring the submarine was the smell of the diesel fuel," said Carson, "and of course now there is no aroma. Everything is now like a Model T Ford and a supersonic race car. The electronic gear that reads out every particular operation or activity is all computerized and each man is so technically oriented and educated to his particular function and activity that it just blows your mind."
Carson said the special trip gave Buckeye veterans and non-veterans "a sense of awe and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience."