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Navy holds dual birthday-USS Colorado celebration in Colorado Springs

October 14, 2017 Updated: October 14, 2017 at 1:20 pm
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Art Cyphers, a VP with the Navy League Colorado Springs Council, right, and Welling Clark, with the USS Colorado Commissioning Committee, take pictures of the crest for USS Colorado submarine during a 242-year-old birthday party for the U.S. Navy Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. The crest was designed by Lt. Michael Nielson, who grew up in Colorado. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Navy celebrated its birthday in landlocked Colorado Springs on Friday as local boosters worked to drum up support for the state's namesake submarine.

The USS Colorado, a Virginia-class submarine, will be commissioned into the Navy's fleet in 2018. The Navy took delivery of Colorado last month and is running her through a series of sea trials and training ahead of the commissioning rites.

"It's the highest honor the Navy can give to a state," said Welling Clark, a Navy veteran who joined the celebration at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. "We're a land-locked state so it is hard to describe just what the honor means."

Boosters say the 377-foot nuclear-powered submarine will be a traveling billboard for the Centennial State, and are working to educate its crew on the wonders of the Rockies. Several Colorado sailors, including members of her engine room crew, were on hand for the birthday party.

The Colorado will also be the most advanced submarine to enter American service. A new version of a 1990s design, the Colorado comes with an advanced sonar system to hunt enemy vessels and a new vertical launch system to strike targets ashore.

"We're the deadliest ship in the world," said Colorado sailor Petty Officer 2nd Class Tristan Newton. "The most advanced piece of technology in the Navy represents Colorado."

Newton and other members of the Colorado crew traveled to 14 elementary schools around the state during their weeklong visit to talk about the science and technology aboard the submarine.

This Colorado is the fourth ship named after the Centennial State. The first was in 1856, when a three-masted frigate entered service.

Colorado has been without a boat to call its own since 1947, when a World War II-era battleship named for the state was retired and scrapped.

The USS Colorado Commissioning Committee was formed to raise cash for the commissioning ceremony for the new boat and to provide comforts for its crew. To learn more about the committee and to donate, visit usscoloradocommittee.org.

The ship now sails with a sculpture and other artwork paid for by the committee that show the ship's home state. The committee has also helped acquaint the crew with Colorado, even training its cooks on local cuisine at The Broadmoor.

Newton said the ties built between the ship and her state help build the morale of her sailors.

"It's an absolutely amazing experience," he said. "Just amazing."

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