As an Ensign at the Navy Supply Corps School, I became fascinated with submarines and quickly decided that was the life I wanted.
I was selected for duty in submarines, and sent to Groton, Conn., for Submarine School. Sub School celebrated submarine history and
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The 2007 Army Navy Banner displayed on the mighty warship USS Frank Cable (AS 40) homeported in Apra Harbor Guam and hung by Lt. Jim Haas, Ens. Roscoe Carney and Cmdr. Mike Patten. (Photo by Lt. Cmdr. George Clark)
underscored the submarine’s preeminent role during the Cold War and in our Navy’s future. I read books like Clear The Bridge, WAHOO and Thunder Below, and was introduced to heroes like Dick O’Kane, Mush Morton, and Gene Fluckey.
I was a fan for life!
As the “Chop” aboard USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN 633G), I worked hard to live up to the high standards of our submarine force. It was a demanding, but highly rewarding, tour. I was extremely proud of my ship and my shipmates. Our crew of 150 was a dedicated team with extremely high esprit de corps.
In the Fall of 1991, I was inspired to combine my passion for the Casimir Pulaski and my passion for Navy football, in particular, the annual Army Navy game. In Annapolis, Md., I had been introduced to the shadowy tradition of secretly constructing large banners and then clandestinely hanging them in prominent places in the dark of night. High places, rope, heavy banners and darkness are a dangerous combination. It was a very illogical but completely exhilarating endeavor … but these “spirit projects” got lots of attention. People love big banners.
As a Plebe, I participated in constructing and hanging several banners. The most outrageous was the effort for the 1983 Army Navy game held in Pasadena, Calif. Under the leadership of the Class of ‘84, hundreds of us plebes were organized to construct the largest banner ever. It was actually six, 60’ x 40’ banners, each displaying a letter; G O N A V Y. Most of the work was in sewing more than 300 bed sheets together. We did this by hand, using needles and dental floss for thread. The banners were transported to California and hung in the middle of the night from the world famous HOLLYWOOD sign. It was an absolutely incredible site! Navy beat Army that year, and I was hooked!
My first Army Navy banner since plebe year would display the Casimir Pulaski and the words, “GO NAVY, NUKE ARMY.” Lt. Jim Weiser’s wife Connie helped me by sewing 36 bed sheets together. She used a sewing machine, which was far more efficient than needles and dental floss. She was a good sport about helping, but did not make much effort to conceal the fact she thought I was a tad nuts. Undaunted, I designed and painted the banner on tennis courts, in stairwells and in basements. It was challenging. The effort paid off though, and the banner was proudly displayed in the Dry Dock in Kings Bay, Ga., where USS Casimir Pulaski was in refit. The banner received rave reviews from the crew of Casimir Pulaski, and all of Kings Bay, save the safety and security folks.
My next submarine duty was as an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) intern working in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Seawolf SSN21 Program Office. I was quickly immersed into the world of contract oversight, provisioning, configuration management, interim supply support and the Weapons Systems File. It was fantastic opportunity to learn how supply support is planned, contracted for, and put in place. I still consider it one of my best and most rewarding tours. I constructed two Army Navy banners while at Seawolf. Connie Weiser was again pressed into service to sew the sheets together and continued to think I was nuts.
The 1992 Seawolf banner was hung in several locations. The first was an overpass in Crystal City, Va. This was extremely dangerous and largely unsuccessful. We then moved the banner to the Navy Annex which overlooks the Pentagon, that was even more dangerous but very successful and more importantly, highly visible. Several phone calls were placed that day from the Pentagon to Seawolf’s front office to voice support or offer contrasting opinions. That night, we travelled to Philadelphia to hang the banner at Veterans Stadium. After a few run-ins with maintenance and security personnel, we were successful! The 1993 Seawolf banner was flown from a 20-story building in Crystal City and was then transported to the Meadowlands for the actual Army Navy Game. To this day, it remains my favorite banner.
My Seawolf banners were my favorites for several reasons. First, they featured cool artwork of the SSN 21, the greatest sub ever constructed. Second, and more importantly, because I had so much help from fellow Supply Corps friends who were all working as interns at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), NAVSEA and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). My co-conspirators included Jim Weiser, Steve Kinskie, Kevin Hinson, Mike Hanson, Dave Usher, Bob Share and John Carty.
In the ensuing years, I served in a variety of non-submarine specific billets, but knew I would return to subs at some point. I also continued my penchant for Army Navy banners emblazoned with the name of my current command. I bought a sewing machine and learned to sew because Connie Weiser no longer lived in the same place I did. I constructed banners for the USS Supply (AOE-6), NSCS Athens, Naval Inventory Control Point (NAVICP) and SUP OP. Those banners have hung in many venues including the USS Supply while underway; FLC Norfolk, Va.; The Naval Postgraduate School; Whiney Davis Hall; Sanford Stadium; NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and Bureau of Personnel in Millington, Tenn.
In 2006, I returned to the submarine force as the Supply Officer aboard USS Frank Cable (AS-40), homeported in beautiful Guam. The “FCB” was responsible for all submarine maintenance in the Western Pacific, primarily serving three homeported SSNs and units transiting to and from the Area of Responsibility (AOR) via Guam. We used flyaway maintenance teams with tailored logistic support packages to export our maintenance capabilities to Diego Garcia, Bahrain, Yokosuka, Japan and many other locations. It was a dynamic and extremely rewarding assignment. Yet again, I was surrounded by a large team of Supply Officers and enlisted that made everything possible, including the construction of a gigantic Army Navy Banner hung from the ship in 2007!
My final Submarine duty is at Trident Refit Facility (TRF) in Kings Bay, Ga. TRF provides all logistical and supply support for the Submarine Force in Kings Bay. In addition, we support SSGNs in Diego Garcia and provide Distance Support to every submarine in the force using the Submarine Logistics Data Base. In 2011, we successfully implemented Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
My last Army Navy banner on active duty was hung in December 2012. It featured a large submarine, and the words, “TEAM TRF… FIX’N SUBS and LIV’N THE DREAM”. Those words were purposefully chosen. “TEAM TRF” is a clear reference to the fact we are a team. Maintainers, financial folks, maintenance planners, logisticians and many others worked together to accomplish our mission of “FIX’N” submarines.
Lastly, “LIV’N THE DREAM” because we are indeed blessed to live in this great nation and serve that nation through our roles in the Navy. I have most certainly lived a dream come true. I have only one last wish … BEAT ARMY, AGAIN!
By Capt. Michael Patten, SC USN; Supply Officer, Trident Refit Facility, Kings Bay, Ga.