Todd Barnes enjoyed what he called a “bucket list” experience recently when he and other proud fathers and brothers of crew members spent time aboard the USS Alaska, a ballistic missile submarine.
Lieutenant JG Matthew Barnes, a 2012 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, is the son of Todd and Becky Barnes of Hillsboro, and an engineering officer on the sub.
As part of a “tiger cruise” program that was recently reinstated for nuclear subs after being suspended following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Todd Barnes and 23 other fathers, along with two men who were brothers of other submarine personnel, hitched a ride to experience life at sea with their children.
Barnes described the experience Tuesday for Hillsboro Rotarians at the Ponderosa Banquet Center.
Barnes, vice president of business development at PAS Technologies, said the family members had to embark from shore at 6 a.m. for an 11-hour boat ride to rendezvous with the nuclear sub. He said neither he nor the other proud family members knew precisely what their children did on the sub, since they are reluctant to discuss classified or secret information.
But when Barnes got up at 3 a.m. one morning to observe his son at work, and then heard him giving orders directing the sub’s trajectory, he asked, “You’re driving the boat?”
“Yeah,” his son replied.
“That’s so cool!” Barnes said he exclaimed, before it was pointed out to him that everything said in the control room was broadcast into the captain’s quarters.
Barnes spent three days on the Alaska, which he described as a huge vessel three stories tall, with three decks. He said the purpose of the sub is to be one of the deterrents to nuclear war in the “MAD” scenario – mutual assured destruction.
According to the U.S. Navy website, Alaska is the seventh Trident Ohio-class nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine and the fourth United States Navy ship to bear the name of the state. Alaska was commissioned January 25, 1986.
Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, is the east coast homeport for the Alaska and other ballistic and guided missile submarines, and the only naval base in the Atlantic fleet capable of supporting the Trident II (D-5) missile, according to the Navy.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.