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News | May 8, 2020

USS Tennessee Wins SECNAV Afloat Environmental Award

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alfred Coffield

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, was announced as the winner of the 2020 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Afloat Environmental Award, April 21.

The SECNAV environmental programs recognize Navy and Marine Corps ships, installations and people for outstanding performance in promoting environmental stewardship.

Acting Secretary of the Navy James E. McPherson announced the SECNAV Environmental Award winners and congratulated them via official message.

In his message, McPherson emphasized the importance of Navy environmental programs in achieving national defense strategy by taking a proactive role in enhancing mission effectiveness through the implementation of environmental programs to meet expanding mission requirements, protect and improve the environment, avoid and reduce future liabilities and build trust with partner nations.

Tennessee was previously awarded the 2014 SECNAV Award for Excellence in Submarine Safety, and the Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Awards in submarine category for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Representing the best among all submarines in the Atlantic Fleet, Tennessee’s leadership and crew demonstrated sustained commitment and success in environmental protection by emphasizing the importance of each Sailor’s role in environmental conservation.

“Tennessee is extremely deserving of this prestigious award, as every member of the crew has demonstrated commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces. “Their dedication and deliberate implementation of environmental protection programs allowed them to accomplish our vital strategic deterrence mission while improving the environment in which they live, work and train.”

Cmdr. Justin Kaper, commanding officer, USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) (Blue) said there is a high level of communication and emphasis on environmental awareness across work centers, departments and crews.

“Tennessee’s environmental awareness program and hazardous material program has command-level attention and focus,” Kaper said. “Between our engaged training program and rigorous self-assessment, team Tennessee minimized our environmental footprint by fostering a culture where the entire crew supports sound environmental awareness and stewardship.”

With more than 350 Sailors between its two crews, Tennessee’s Blue and Gold crews exhibited exceptional excellence in training and assessment program management that contributed to environmental security, improved readiness and mission capability for the Submarine Force.

Blue and Gold crews alternate manning the submarines and taking them on patrol. This maximizes the SSBN's strategic availability, reduces the number of submarines required to meet strategic requirements, and allows for proper crew training, readiness and morale.

The Navy's ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as "boomers," serve as an undetectable launch platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Ballistic missile submarines use an interesting method to preserve the environment. Whereas surface ships can store waste aboard and dispose of it during a port visit, SSBNs have storage limitations and almost never visit port due to mission requirements. Therefore, SSBNs like Tennessee participate in the Plastic Reduction in the Marine Environment (PRIME) program. This program eliminates plastic pollution in the ocean by storing plastic waste onboard in odor barrier bags, heat-sealing the bags to save space, and properly disposing the waste upon return to port.

Designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads on extended deterrent patrols, SSBNs operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance.