NEWS | Dec. 23, 2009

Navy sub, Wolf Pack find bond

By Ferd Lewis Honolulu Advertiser

The USS Nevada crew plans to watch its adopted team in the crew mess, nicknamed "Wolf Pack Cafe. "
The USS Nevada crew plans to watch its adopted team in the crew mess, nicknamed "Wolf Pack Cafe. "

It isn't just the identifying number on the sail that suggests who the crew of the massive, 560-foot ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada will be rooting for in tomorrow's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

There is also the No. 7 jersey of running back Luke Lippincott, the football signed by the University of Nevada football team and the name "Wolf Pack" that the crew carries in intramural athletic competition that make it the most heavily-armed of fan clubs this bowl season.

When the school plays Southern Methodist University, the game will be carried in the crew mess "" nicknamed "Wolf Pack Cafe" "" where they have followed many of the other Wolf Pack games this season in the march to the postseason, both crew and team sharing the motto, "Battle Born!"

Theirs is a remarkable tie that binds this Navy nuclear-powered submarine home-ported in Bangor, Wash. , and the football team that represents its namesake, the land-locked 36th state.

One made all the more noteworthy by the USS Nevada's history at Pearl Harbor and the Wolf Pack dedicating this game, played a few touchdowns drives away from Aloha Stadium, to the sub and its crew.

They were introduced three months ago quite by accident by the Reno mayor and amid the football team's deepest struggles, an 0-3 start that threatened to sink what had been considered a promising season.

Back then, the USS Nevada's skipper, Cmdr . Mark Behning, and a handful of crew members, who were in Reno on a public relations tour, were invited to speak to the team by head coach Chris Ault.

They discussed, Behning recalls, teamwork and trusting in each other and a lot more.

"It was an emotional talk," Ault said. "It was very touching to see people who are protecting us, who give us a chance to to play this game of football, follow us. "

While Ault said the talk didn't turn the Wolf Pack's season, it did help the team find some perspective. "It was special to think that a lot of things happen that you have an effect on during the course of your career, things that you don't realize," Ault said.

While the crew got weekly updates on the Wolf Pack's progress, Nevada went on to win eight of its last nine games, becoming bowl eligible and finishing second in the Western Athletic Conference, where it earned the bid to the Hawai'i Bowl.

Along the way the Wolf Pack came to learn something about the history, heroism and sacrifice of their state's namesake. The battleship USS Nevada, tied up near the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, was badly injured in the raid on Pearl Harbor. It suffered torpedo and bomb damage, yet was the only battleship that managed to get underway, continuing the fight with two of its crew earning the Navy Medal of Honor.

Disabled, it eventually beached itself at what would become known as "Nevada Point" rather than risk clogging the channel. It was repaired and went on to see action in support of the Normandy landings and Iwo Jima and Okinawa assaults.

Given a chance to glimpse Pearl Harbor this week and and reflect with up-close poignancy upon history and their namesake's role, Ault said, "It was very special. So, we have decided we are going to dedicate this game to the crew of the USS Nevada. "

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