The “Time Aboard” Plaque Program
The SSN 777 Club is proud to honor each departing crew member, enlisted and officer, with a special memento of their time served aboard the USS North Carolina SSN 777. During a departing ceremony in Hawaii, each member is presented with a plaque made from the original teak decking of the Battleship North Carolina BB 55, reaffirming the bond of boat and state.
Affixed in the center of each plaque is a 777 coin. The plaques are inscribed with name, dates of service aboard the 777, and identification of the teak as being from BB 55.
The Family Readiness Group (FRG) and Morale, Welfare, Recreation (MWR) Program are two exceedingly important Dept of Navy-sanctioned efforts operating for the benefit of the crew.
While FRG’s are private organizations, the Chief of Naval Operations encourages close coordination between Commands and their FRG’s in OPNAVINST 1754.5C. FRG’s exist to help families navigate the stresses of the “Needs of the Navy” and are a link between the command and Sailors’ families (especially when deployed). The SSN-777 club supports the FRG by providing refreshments and activities at their monthly meetings and mid-deployment gatherings and purchasing items such as leis for return-from-deployment events.
MWR Programs, conversely, are run by Navy Commands using non-appropriated funds like command raffles and “ship’s stores” to operate. The club supports the command’s MWR in its efforts to organize crew tours during deployment portcalls, host a command holiday party, and reduce the price of items sold by the ship’s store.
There is a custom within our submarine service that when deployed, or on patrol and under-water for an average of 6 months, the crew celebrates the halfway point with a special dinner and the distribution of personalized “care packages,” or Halfway Boxes, for each crew member as prepared by family and friends. The NC Daughters of the American Revolution partners with the SSN-777 Club to purchase ~150 Halfway Boxes. These boxes include snacks, reading material, toiletries and notes from home.
Separated by six time zones from the east coast, and living a life which revolves around providing for the national defense, sailors (especially the most junior) are significant removed from the support network to which most Americans are accustomed. The United States Navy exerts great effort to care for all aspects of its sailors’ well-being, such as the well-known “Red Cross Message” system. Inevitably, though, there are gaps and the club seeks to close them. To the boat’s senior enlisted sailor, the club makes available a contingency fund for use in responding to emergencies created by deaths in the family, crimes against crew, and (in 2022) the unavailability of potable water at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
The US Navy appropriates funds for SSN-777 to successfully and safely complete its missions in support of the national defense. However, extremely limited funds are available for items with contribute to esprit-de-corps, command pride, and unit-level identity. Upon special grant, the club works with the members of the command to identify, design, and fund items that instill spirit aboard the Tar Heel Boat. Examples of these items include:
Command decals to affix to the hardhats worn while in-port as a part of working uniforms
Command patches to be affixed to the coveralls worn by crew members while underway
Quick Dry Shirts designed for wear during command PT (physical training)
North Carolina-themed items intended for display aboard the boat, specifically in the Messdecks, Chief’s Mess, and Wardroom
Custom-designed Vinyl Signage to be affixed to the brow while the boat is pierside
Pirate/Skull&Crossbones Flag to be flown from the sail when returning to port after a successful operational period
The most significant recurring public event in the life of a commissioned naval vessel may be the ceremonies to acknowledge a change of Commanding Officer. Being homeported 4,500 miles from its name presents real logistical difficulties related to the presence of dignitaries from the namesake state showing their support. The Club enables an officer to attend be in attendance, assisting in the costs of travel, meals and lodging in order to “show the flag” during these important milestones. In years where no change-of-command takes place, an in-person visit is nonetheless vital in maintaining the continuity of support throughout the ship’s lifetime and is thus one of the club’s priority programs.
Namesake State Visits
The Navy provides for representative delegations of its commands to visit their namesake locations from time-to-time. Visits are required to satisfy criteria such as promoting recruitment efforts, furthering STEM education, and maintaining good political will. Federal funds cover major costs of lodging and transportation. THE SSN-777 club is proud to have enhanced the impact of such visits by coordinating major events in 2016, 2017, and 2019 such as attendance at Duke U. MBB game, meeting with Governor Cooper, and meaningful meetings in Wilmington NC where the boat was commissioned. Club is prepared to cover the costs of incidentals, not otherwise paid by the US Navy.
To foster regular contact to a wide audience, the club publishes a newsletter, 2-3 pages in length and prominently featuring photographs.
Arguably, the single most significant public event in the life of a US Navy ship is its commissioning ceremony, which are organized by committees dedicated solely for the purpose and cost ~$200k raised largely from governmental organizations near the commissioning site and contractors associated with construction of the new vessel. In contrast, decommissioning ceremonies are often less extravagant. The SSN-777 club hopes to send the boat off in style upon completion of its (expected) 30-year service life. While a closely related organization, the NC Submarine Museum, is working to provide a meaningful long-term commemoration of the boat’s service life, SSN-777 will create a fund which operates dually as its strategic reserve and Decommissioning Ceremony contribution in approximately 2037.
Similar to a school yearbook, naval vessels will often publish a Cruise Book which typically contains photos of crew members, usually grouped by their division or department, who aboard during the cruise in addition to candid photos of work aboard the boat, a map the ship's travels during the cruise, and pictures taken at ports of call. The SSN-777 club desires to offset the initial costs of cruisebook production such that one may be produced no matter how many crew members desire to purchase one, and so that one may be retained by the club for documentation of the service history of USS NORTH CAROLINA.