Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kings Bay to Gain Trident; Assignment of USS Alaska Comes after Base Lost 5 Boats since 2002

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kings Bay to Gain Trident; Assignment of USS Alaska Comes after Base Lost 5 Boats since 2002

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS -- The alignment of the country's two Trident ballistic missile submarine fleets is shifting again -- this time in favor of the Atlantic coast home port, which has lost five boats since 2002.

The Navy is reassigning the USS Alaska to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Southeast Georgia sometime in 2008 after the boat, which was commissioned in 1986, undergoes an overhaul and its nuclear reactors are resupplied with enough fuel to last the next 20 years.

"This is a huge opportunity for us," said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican who represents the region. "We're glad the Navy made this decision."

Preparations are already under way for the boat to leave its current home port in Bangor, Wash., after a change-of-command ceremony and crew combination ceremony scheduled for Friday, June 16.

The 360 sailors assigned to the two crews that alternate patrols on the USS Alaska will be merged into one crew of about 240 sailors during the overhaul and refueling, which will be done at shipyards in Norfolk, Va., beginning in September, Navy officials said.

"I'd love to see the refit done locally, but I'm not complaining," Kingston said. "We get another sub back."

Kingston said last year's Base Realignment and Closure study of Kings Bay probably played a role in sending another submarine to the base.

"In the wake of BRAC, people had a really good look at Kings Bay," he said. "We're reminded of how good a base Kings Bay is."

Christine Daniel, director of the Camden-Kings Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, said the two-year notice of a new submarine gives businesses plenty of time to prepare for the arrival of crew members and their families. It's estimated the county's population will grow by about 1,000 residents.

She said the county's prior experience dealing with the arrival of a new boat will make it easy to prepare for when the Alaska arrives.

Daniel and merchants may get plenty of practice throwing welcome parties for the crews of boats arriving to Kings Bay. A welcome party is planned for the crews serving on the USS Florida sometime this month after all the sailors assigned to the boat arrive at Kings Bay. …

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