Lee Francis ENGL1013 26April2001
On February 9, 2001 a United States Submarine got underway from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with a crew of about one hundred thirty men and sixteen civilians made up of men and women. The crew was to take the civilians out on the submarine to show them the submarines abilities and usefulness to America. They began the journey with a fortyfive minute ride out of the channel, which exits the south side of the island of Oahu. As they journeyed out of the channel, the civilians heard sounds of people and machinery going to work at one time. Sounds of orders being passed over an intercom system from the crewmembers in the bridge to the crewmembers below controlling the submarine, orders to tell the crew below how fast or slow to go, which way to turn and when to turn, and other specific orders. They heard the crewmembers below verbatim repeat backs over the intercom system to acknowledge the orders. They saw and heard all the other crewmembers in their presence carry out the responsibilities of their job. The civilians saw and heard everything going on but still didn’t really know what was to come as they progressed through the day. They had now exited the channel and the Captain ordered everyone in the bridge to lie below. Once they were below he ordered all hatches to be secured. The civilians ware starting to feel the discomfort of being cramped into such a small place but still had no idea of what was to come. The Captain now looked out the periscope and checked the
sonar displays and determined that there were no vessels in the area. With this acknowledgement the Captain ordered the Officer of the Deck to “submerge the ship.” The Officer of the Deck then ordered the Diving Officer to “submerge the ship.” The Diving Officer gave a verbatim repeat back and then gave out his orders. One was for the Chief of the Watch to open all main ballast tank vents, which allows the air to escape and water to fill in for submerging the ship. The other order was to the Helmsman and Planesman, who are the two men who control the external planes and rudder with an airplane steering wheel type device, to put full dive on the bow planes and stern planes, and to zero the rudder. The ship is now submerging as the Officer of the Deck looks out the periscope to verify that air is escaping out of all main ballast tanks. The ship is now submerged below the surface of the world’s largest ocean, and the civilians have now realized that their world has been shrunken to one that is 360 feet long and 34 feet abeam. They’ve had it explained to them and at this point realize that it is like being stuck in a small closet with no lights, all you can see is what is right in front of you. Hallways are now about three feet wide versus the about eight feet they are accustomed to. The day goes on as the crew performs their jobs and demonstrates the submarines abilities to the civilians, trying to prove the importance of the submarine. Although by days end, the civilians only seemed to remember a negative toward submarines because as the submarine crew was performing an emergency blow maneuver, it rammed a Japanese fishing boat and sank it, killing nine. So the intended message of the importance of a submarine was turned into a negative towards submarines. The USS Greeneville was an unfortunate and negative situation for the submarine community, but it is just one of the few negatives about submarines. Another negative
toward submarines is that the crew consists of all men and no women. As many point out this could be an equal rights issue. Women do not serve on any Navy battleships, such as submarines, destroyers, and others. However, they do serve on board aircraft carriers, but carriers are not battleships. They are just a platform for an aircraft runway. Submarines are also confined in personal space and don’t have the facilities for women. Women would have to be provided with separate berthing areas because the berthing areas consist of about thirty racks with only curtains for privacy. Allowing women in the areas would cause fraternization issues. There are also only five heads, better known as restrooms, for all 130 crewmembers to use. Other countries are allowing women on board submarines and even allowing them to be captains of a submarine. So this shows it is possible and that maybe the United States can figure out a plan for women on submarines. Money. It seems to come up in every issue today and submarines are no different. Today’s society has a negative view on submarines because of the amount of money spent to build one. An article in Insight on the News by Ben Cohen states that by not building six new attack submarines, America could construct more than 2,000 elementary schools, or for four new attack submarines, we could provide Head Start to all 1.7 million eligible children who don’t have it. Although it does cost about two billions dollars to build a submarine, which would make this statement true, a person must also think of the other side of this statement. If we don’t have the weapons to protect our country and our freedoms, then America could have other troubles on its hands, taking that every other country in the world seems to envy us. The numbers look and sound good in an idealistic world, but we’re in a real world.
Submarines are a big part of our everyday lives whether we know it or not. They are used for many different activities not just military. Submarines become more and more involved in research every day. Scientists rely on submarines to help them explore the ocean, the ocean floor, marine life, and the ice at the poles. Historians rely on submarines to help them find and study old shipwrecks and other historical artifacts. An example is the recent lifting of the Hunley, which was an old Civil War submarine sank off the Carolina Coast. Without submarines historians may have never recovered this piece of history. And the most important need for submarines is for military use. We all want our freedoms protected and submarines are the best weapons to use. An article in Insight on the News by Ivan Eland states the submarine is hard to find and kill in its underwater environment and can have a devastating effect in war at sea. In the two world wars, submarines were extremely effective at destroying military and commercial surface vessels. The submarine has added lethal anti-ship cruise missiles to the torpedoes already in it offensive arsenal. Thus, the submarine now may be the dominant naval weapon. A submarine’s abilities speak for themselves. Today’s nuclear powered submarine could stay underwater running for thirty years. The only setback is that there is only enough storage space for ninety days worth of food for the crew. That’s why the longest submarine operations are limited close to ninety days. The most important ability of the submarine is its stealth. A submarine is very quiet and hard to be heard by any one, and a submarine is hidden while it is submerged. This is what makes the submarine unique to the rest of the Naval Fleet. A submarine can do surveillance on another country by staying submerged underwater and using the periscope and antennas to monitor activities that may be taking place. Getting all this valuable and possibly critical
data without anyone knowing it’s there is the unique ability of a submarine. This is in contrast to the recent United States P-3A spy plane, which was forced to make an emergency landing on a small island south of China. The plane couldn’t carry out its mission because it was discovered and forced out of the area by two Chinese fighter planes. This just goes to show that submarines are a vital part of our national security. Michael Harrington, a lieutenant commander onboard a United States Navy Submarine, was quoted as saying in an interview with Los Angeles Times, “We use to hunt for Ivan, now we hunt for Ivan and everybody else.” This statement is truer now than ever before. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the submarine battle among other countries has intensified. The former Soviet Union is now trying to rebuild their economy and in doing so they are selling their submarines and technology. This in hand turns other, maybe smaller countries, into big threats. The United States Navy currently has eighty-five total submarines, sixty-seven fast-attack and eighteen Tridents, which are all nuclear powered. It may seem as though we have enough and can afford to cut that number down to fifty fast-attack and fourteen Tridents, but on the other hand it is the United States versus the world. Currently the former Soviet Union has eighty-one and China has five nuclear powered submarines, but China also has fifty-eight diesel powered submarines and North Korea, a small country in its own right, has ninety diesel powered submarines. And with the former Soviet Union selling their technology and submarines these numbers will only continue to increase and spread out among many other countries. And remember our goal is to protect our freedoms. Although it cost 1.7 billion dollars to build the Seawolf class submarine, it is the submarine with enough technology and abilities to help us compete with the Russians
well into the twenty-first century. The United States Navy stopped making the Seawolf class after only two were built and started on cheaper yet not as dynamic submarine known as the Virginia class. The extra money it takes to build the more versatile and more reliable Seawolf class is worth it. More money is needed to get better and more reliable equipment on the submarine. Had the United States Navy had the money to spend on better equipment, just maybe the USS Greeneville collision with the Japanese fishing boat might not have happened. One of the factors relating to the collision is that a piece of sonar equipment that is located in the control room for the Captain and Officer of the Deck to see and use when preparing to surface was out of commission. More money for equipment and who knows maybe we wouldn’t have this story to talk about today. Two other reasons that submarines need more money is for better training and more pay for the crew. Once again maybe if the United States Navy had the money to put into better training for the crew then maybe the crew could have fixed the broken equipment and also the operators in the sonar room would have had more knowledge toward their respective job and what to look for and to do to prevent the collision. One of the sonar operators was young, inexperienced, and didn’t have the training knowledge to prevent such events. A large part is due to the fact that the United States Navy had to cut school and training programs due to the cut in military funding by the government. More pay for the crew is something that is brought up in Congress all the time and turned down because of the lack of funds. The crew of a submarine is no different than any other everyday American, except that he volunteered to protect his country inside a steel tube. The more you pay for services the better quality of service you get. It’s no different with the crew of a submarine; the more money they make the better performance they’ll put
into their job. And yes they volunteered, but we should respect that and give them more pay for the job they do since they sacrifice their normal everyday lives to do submarine duty and apparently it’s something others don’t want to do. There are many ways to support submarines, but three stand out, and we are faced with them everyday. One is to become more aware of submarines, how they work, their abilities, and what they do for you. Once you realize this, you will realize the submarines importance and need in today’s society. Two, vote for people who back your political view towards military funding. It’s your choice to vote and to vote for whom you want to, so why not vote for someone who will help support your views. Whether it is a Congressman, Legislator, or even President of the United States, vote for the one who will support more military funding. And last but not least, support taxes. Everyone hates more taxes, but if the tax is to support more military funding then it’s worth it because after all it will help protect your freedoms. In becoming more aware, voting, and supporting taxes for military funding, you help protect the rights you expect every day when you wake up. And as to why the United States needs to keep a strong submarine force, Chief Petty Officer David Cowan stated it best in an interview with Los Angeles Times, “Maybe Ivan isn’t what he used to be, but there are a lot of other guys out there these days we’ve got to watch. We’re the only guys who can do it.”