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Hooyah, Shipmates!

PNW celebrates the 116th Enlisted Submarine Ball

The USS Maine SSBN 741 (Blue) brought a contingent of nearly 80 sailors and spouses to celebrate at the ball. Photo credit: Jodi M. Ubelhor-Strauch

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Seattle received a rare treat last Saturday night as hundreds of handsome sailors in dress blues and their spouses, dressed to the nines in an array of flowing gowns, ferried across the Puget Sound to celebrate the 116th PNW Enlisted Submarine Birthday Ball. The Sheraton Seattle overflowed with beautiful couples and rambunctious submarine commands, all gathered together to share an evening of tradition and excellence.

The Submarine Birthday Ball is a time-honored tradition. Submariners gather each year to celebrate the birthday of the USS Holland SS-1, which was the first submarine commissioned into service for the United States Navy. Under the leadership of Capt. Frank T. Cable, it entered service on April 11, 1900.

The USS Albuquerque took honors for Best Centerpiece of the evening. Photo credit: Jodi M. Ubelhor-Strauch

The evening was a celebration of the many achievements of the Silent Service as well as a time to remember the submariners who paved the way. Careful measure is taken to honor submariners of the past who served in the Navy, some of whom remain on eternal patrol, and the Remembrance and the Tolling of the Boats were a sobering but integral aspect of the evening. Bagpipes played over a reel of photographs detailing the hundreds of sailors and 52 submarines lost at sea from World War I to the present, reminding attendees of the ultimate price paid by the submariners who came before.

Bringing a little levity back to the ceremony, former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West danced to the stage to the beats of Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and regaled the audience with stories of his time at sea and of his retirement. MCPON West served 32 years in the Navy, and though now retired for four years, "at the end of the day, I am exactly where I want to be, right here, right now with you guys," he said. "Hooyah, Shipmates!"

To close the evening, all qualified submariners in the room were asked to stand and be recognized for their years of service to the Navy. Through a process of elimination by year of submarine qualification, sailors one by one took their seats until one sailor, Master Chief Jeff Muniz of NAVIMFAC, remained standing. Master Chief Muniz, pinned in 1989, proudly joined MM2 Brandon Cybak-Vertin, who had received his dolphins only moments before, and West on stage to cut the ceremonial birthday cake, symbolizing the history and the future of the United States Navy Submarine Force.

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