Virginia Tech Ocean Engineering Students Visit USS Memphis

Thursday, May 10, 2007
Fast attack submarine USS Memphis (SSN 691) departs Port Everglades, Fla., to provide tours to Virginia Tech students during Fleet Week 2007. Fleet Week celebrates the U.S. Navy through community relation projects and tours of various ships. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Lange

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Robert Keilman, Commander, Submarine Force Public Affairs

Students and two faculty members from Virginia Polytechnic Institute's Ocean Engineering Department visited the nuclear fast-attack submarine USS Memphis (SSN 691) May 4 for an eight-hour embark. The Virginia Tech group got underway aboard Memphis to see firsthand some of the equipment they learned to design in the classroom, and how it works in real life.

“It’s one thing to read about layouts and arrangement in textbooks, but it’s another when you walk around the submarine and see actually how much space you need for their components,” said Jennifer Gardner, one of the students aboard the Memphis. “It’s a good reference to have and will make designing in the future a lot easier.”

During the underway period aboard Memphis, the visitors toured its auxiliary machinery space, bridge, living spaces, torpedo room and control room. They also had a chance to witness by-the-numbers procedures during diving operations as well as enjoy some submariner chow. “It’s our pleasure to have them aboard. They’re all positive, bright young people,” said Command Master Chief (SS) Al Atkinson, the chief of the boat (COB) aboard Memphis. “It’s been neat to see the ‘light bulb’ come on as they compare the Memphis to what they’ve learned in books.” The Virginia Tech embark contingent were guests of the Submarine Force at Fleet Week in Fort Lauderdale.

During their visit, the visitors also toured the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Students and faculty members learned how the ship performs its well deck operations and flight operations. They also had the opportunity to view the ship’s landing craft air cushion and the Marine Corps’ newest troop transport aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey. For most of the students and faculty members, the visit to Memphis was not only a learning experience; it was a way for them to refocus their attention toward their studies, a way to relieve the stress that many of them feel from the campus shootings which happened less than three weeks before the visit. “It definitely did,” said Carrie Gonsoulin, another Virginia Tech student. “There’s still a lot of media around campus, and [this visit] was a great opportunity to help take our minds off what happened.” “They have a lot on their minds and they can use any escape they can get. This visit today is one of those good alternatives,” said Memphis’ Supply Officer, Lt. John Donnelly, whose cousin is a Virginia Tech Ocean Engineering student. In another example of how far the “Hokie” connections extend, Cmdr. Kevin Henderson, Kearsarge’s supply officer who hosted the tour, is a Virginia Tech alumnus and his son currently attends the Blacksburg, Va., university.

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