Anoka High School welcomed two distinguished guests April 2 – Cmdr. Brian Tanaka, commanding officer of the USS Minnesota, and Senior Chief Steven Williams, chief of the boat.
The two men spoke with a U.S. history class and met with approximately 25 community members in the auditorium after school to discuss the submarine and their roles on it.
The USS Minnesota is the newest submarine in the U.S.’s naval fleet, commissioned in Norfolk, Va. on Sept. 7, 2013. It’s the most technologically advanced sub in the world, Tanaka said.
Originally from Rochester, Minn., Tanaka is very proud to command the submarine named for his state, he said. He is one of about six of 134 total crew members who hail from the land of 10,000 lakes. Still, “my guys are all Minnesotans,” he said.
“I wish I could tell some grand story,” Tanaka said about entering the Navy with hopes of someday commanding the USS Minnesota; that wasn’t the case. When Tanaka joined the Navy in 1996, the USS Minnesota was a nearly 100-year-old battleship that had been decommissioned for decades, he said to chuckles from the auditorium.
He jumped at the chance to command the new ship. He and Williams each began their tenure aboard the USS Minnesota in the last few months. They will lead the ship on its first deployment in late 2015.
Students had a lot of questions about what it is like to be on board a submarine, underwater for months at a time. Many of the class’s questions were about day-to-day life. How do you use the bathroom? What do you eat?
Community members were more eager to learn about the submarine itself.
Tanaka and Williams answered all but one of their questions: What’s the top speed of the ship?
That answer is classified, but “this is the best, most capable ship the world has ever known,” Tanaka offered.
President of the Navy League of the United States Minnesota Council Brian Skon asked Tanaka to share his command philosophy.
It’s threefold, Tanaka said. First, he urges his crew to be brilliant, even when tasks seem unimportant or far from glamorous. Second, the crew should be ready at all times. Members should know what is expected of them and be prepared to support others. Third, be a Viking, Tanaka said, his Minnesota roots showing. Ultimately, men and women don’t join the Navy to train. The Navy aims to “go to war, fight and win,” he said.
Just like Minnesota, which is always “leading the way,” Tanaka said, the USS Minnesota is breaking ground, too. In January, it will become the first fast-attack submarine to welcome women onboard, Tanaka said.
Tanaka and Williams’ stop in Anoka was their last on a three-day tour around the metro, arranged and funded by the Navy League of the United States Minnesota Council. Crew members from the USS Minnesota have visited the state with support from the Minnesota Council more than 10 times in the last two years.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support that’s coming from the state at large and the individual communities,” Tanaka said.
Olivia Koester is at [email protected]