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USS Idaho crew visits North Idaho

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | September 19, 2023 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — For the first time in nearly 100 years, a naval vessel will bear the name Idaho.

So it was only fitting that more than 100 people gathered Sunday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 889 in downtown Coeur d’Alene to welcome the crew of the USS Idaho SSN 799, a Virginia-class, nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine.

The 377-foot-long submarine is under construction at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn. But it has its roots in the Gem State.

“Few states have the direct connection to the success of the U.S. submarine force that Idaho does,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Richard Colburn, who also serves on the USS Idaho commissioning committee.

The nuclear reactor technology that enables the submarine to function for 35 years without needing to refuel was developed at the Idaho National Laboratory, while the acoustic stealth research critical to the submarine’s success is carried out in the deep waters of Lake Pend Oreille, once called “the U.S. submarine force’s most important body of water” by retired Adm. Edmund Giambastiani.

Even the submarine’s crew is from Idaho — part of the crew, at least.

Petty Officer Robert Boscan of Hayden received a warm North Idaho welcome Sunday, along with Chief Petty Officer Phillip Alvey, Petty Officer Forrest Bridges, Petty Officer Daniel Lannigan and Lt. j.g. Alexander Boxmeyer.

The crew will eventually consist of approximately 120 enlisted personnel and 14 officers. At least three Idahoans will serve on the crew, including Boscan.

“We’re very humbled by the welcome you all showed us,” said Cmdr. Randall Leslie. “We’re all excited to be here today and I’m excited to show some of you the best our country has to offer in the sailors that joined me on this trip.”

The VFW event was the crew’s first stop on a tour throughout the region. This week, they’ll also visit the Sandpoint Rotary Club, take part in a meet and greet at Super 1 Foods in Hayden and visit Lewiston, Grangeville and Moscow.

Former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who is also chairman of the USS Idaho commissioning committee, described for the crowd a recent picnic for the submarine’s crew and their families.

“You would swear this was like a Norman Rockwell painting of what America should be,” he said. “And as I looked at them, I realized also this is one of the most elite crews that at a moment’s notice can take one of America’s most lethal weapons to war and defend us. That’s who these men and women are. We can be so proud of them.”

Even the crest of the USS Idaho celebrates its namesake state. The crest features a vista of the Sawtooth Range within the facets of a cut opal, an outline of Idaho flanked by steelhead trout, a peregrine falcon — the state’s official raptor — leading the submarine on her mission and other details highlighting the qualities of the Gem State.

“We want this ship to represent the service of all Idahoans,” Colburn said.

The USS Idaho is expected to be christened in winter 2023 or spring 2024, with commissioning to follow in spring 2025.

For more information about the USS Idaho, its history and its future, visit www.ussidahocommitte.org.