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USS Kentucky Makes Port Visit to Russell County NJROTC

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070330-06
Release Date: 3/30/2007 8:33:00 AM

By Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SS) Michael Stephen Lee II, Navy Office of Community Outreach

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (NNS) -- Ask cadets of “Laker Company” from the Russell County High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) how they are feeling, and you will immediately be informed, “Motivated, motivated, downright dedicated! You check us out! You check us out! Smooth!” That is exactly what five Sailors from the USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) discovered March 26 while visiting the school.

Cmdr. Alan Holt, commanding officer of the (Blue) Crew, and four of his crew members are conducting a namesake visit to the commonwealth. Their first stop was Russell County High School, where they had the opportunity to eat lunch with about 200 freshmen and spend some time with almost 100 cadets.

Holt and Lt. j.g. Gregory Twohig briefed two classes of cadets on submarine operations, while Chief of the Boat Senior Chief Electronics Technician (SS) William Dyers discussed issues surrounding life aboard a submarine.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have the commanding officer and Sailors here to reinforce the things we teach the kids. They are the real McCoy — they do it every day,” said Capt. Robert “Kong” King, senior naval science instructor, a retired naval aviator who flew F-14 Tomcats for 26 years.

Cadet commanding officer Lt. Cmdr. Jason Corbin echoed that appreciation. “I think it is a good experience. It opened my cadets’ eyes to possible career fields in the Navy. It’s heartwarming that Sailors from USS Kentucky would come all the way from Washington state just to visit my school.”

“But a year ago, it seemed like this visit might never happen,” said Philip Setters, vice president, Sea Services Support for the Navy League of the U.S. Central Kentucky Council and boat’s namesake liaison. He’s been coordinating their visits to Kentucky for the past 12 years.

The NJROTC program was in jeopardy of losing financial support until a grassroots campaign lead by students, alumni, parents and members of the community successfully campaigned to keep the program running. Setters attended a council meeting where supporters of the program defended its continued presence and saw the school’s enthusiasm firsthand.

“The room was overflowing, and almost everyone present was there to make sure the school kept the NJROTC program. I decided right then that this community deserved some high profile Navy presence, and the next opportunity, we would bring some Sailors from a namesake visit to Russell Springs,” he said.

Setters noted that while many people might think NJROTC programs only exist to recruit young people in the armed forces or for that particular service, he said it’s something bigger than that. “The real purpose in the program,” he said, “is to build character, teach leadership skills, and produce better-informed, well-rounded citizens.”

The visit and interaction by the Kentucky crew helped promote those traits and was beneficial for the students and Sailors alike. “I wish my high school had something like this,” said Machinist Mate 2nd Class (SS) Jeremiah Griggs. “It would have really helped prepare me for what I am doing today.”

After school, the Sailors participated in a joint-command opening ceremony for Russell County’s home baseball game against Corbin High School. The cadets performed color guard duties while Holt threw out the first pitch.

After the game, the Sailors departed for Louisville, where they will be visiting the University of Louisville J. B. Speed School of Engineering, touring Hillerich & Bradsby’s Louisville Slugger factory, and visiting with veterans at the Louisville VA Medical Center. They will then travel to Frankfort in order to meet with leaders in state government, before returning to their homeport in Bangor, Wash.

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