Inside Columbia Magazine July IC : Page 113

Delegate and former Columbia Mayor Bob Pugh also knows how rare an opportunity the trip was. “I’m 69, and there aren’t many opportunities like this left for me,” he says. Before the April trip, the closest Pugh had ever come to touring a submarine was watching Hollywood films such as “The Hunt for Red October.” “It was much more crowded than I thought,” he says. “Not at all like the movies we’re shown.” During their visit to the submarine, the delegates enjoyed a cruise aboard USS Columbia and toured areas of the sub, including the torpedo room. The up-close-and-personal view of the submarine made Pugh realize just how incredibly complex a machine it is, he says. It was the human side of the machine, though, that he found most impressive: “The crew was such an incredibly smart group of people.” Pugh, with close friend and fellow delegate Harry “Doc” Wulff, got to live out many boys’ childhood dreams by playing real-life Battleship aboard the submarine. The delegates experienced how USS Columbia functions while at sea by firing mock torpedoes and commanding the submarine’s steering. It was “a lot like flying a plane,” Wulff says. “There’s an artificial horizon and a turn-back indicator.” Like Pugh, Wulff fondly recalls submarine’s crew. “I was really impressed with the sailors,” he says. “They seemed like they knew exactly what they were doing and were all very cordial.” But for Wulff, the mechanics of the boat were most impressive. Space is an issue on any submarine and USS Columbia is no exception. To make the most of the room they have, submarines are designed so that many areas have multiple uses. “It kind of puts to mind something Frank Lloyd Wright would do,” Wulff says. Sleeping quarters are often shared by multiple crewmembers who work and sleep in cyclical shifts — a term called “hot bunking” because the bunk is often still warm from the previous occupant. Even so, USS Columbia is still very cramped, Wulff says. “Anytime you want to do anything in the submarine you have to go up or down a ladder,” he notes. Wulff ’s time aboard the submarine left him with great respect for how the crewmembers live while at sea. “I myself don’t know how they do it,” he marvels. “I’m too much of a land lover. I can’t imagine not seeing the sun for 100 days.” The delegates concluded their USS Columbia tour with an Easter brunch aboard the submarine in the crew’s mess, named Flat Branch Café after the land-based eatery. Several years ago, while on a visit to Columbia, Mo., crewmembers were so impressed with the local pub and brewery that owner Tom Smith offered to share the name with the submarine’s dining hall. Hesitant to open the first watering hole on a submarine, the Navy approved the name under one condition — swap “Pub & Brewing” with “Café.” Crewmembers from the submarine visit Columbia annually for Memorial Day, a tradition they have missed only once since USS Columbia’s commissioning in 1995. This past Memorial Day, Petty Officer Jamison Zrust, Ensign Jamie Steffensmeier and Sonar Technician Submarines Chief Petty Officer Keith Richter spent seven days reacquainting themselves with the delegates and honoring media appearances, visiting the air show, and attending the Memorial Day parade and wreath-laying ceremony. They also found time for a party thrown by Pugh and Wulff. USS Columbia crewmembers enjoy their visits here to help their sub’s namesake city honor and support all veterans. It’s a fondness the city reciprocates — the consensus among the delegates is that they, too, would like a return visit to USS Columbia. ■ INSIDE COLUMBIA July 2009 113

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