Eastern Montanans Meet MONTANA Crew! (posted 9/1/22)

Miles City. Sidney. Fort Kipp. Fort Peck. In-between, ranching, farming, oil & gas, rural electrification, Native culture, magnificent scenery, and wonderful Montanans all along the route…

USSMTC Steering Group Member Bill Henderson with USS MONTANA crew members (L-R) MMN1 Matthew Campolattara, LTJG Tom Harvey and STS3 Charles Roberts

Crew members of the USS MONTANA (SSN 794) had a fantastic experience in Eastern Montana through the past weekend. This group visited yet another part of Big Sky Country in the ongoing program of sailors learning about Montana, and Montanans getting to know those who will defend our nation aboard our namesake warship.

Fresh from the recent commissioning of SSN 794 into the Navy fleet, Supply Officer Lieutenant JG Tom Harvey, along with nuclear-trained Machinist’s Mate First Class Matthew Campolattara and Sonar Technician Third Class Charles Roberts were those in Montana. Guided by USS Montana Committee Steering Group Member Bill Henderson of Sidney, they had a wide range of experiences.

Crew members with Bunny Miller, Range Riders Museum in Miles City, MT, and John Laney, CEO of the Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce that coordinated the Miles City area crew visit activities

Highlights of the visit were described as the welcomes and support felt along the way.

Among others were the tour of Miles City and then the Eastern Montana Fair Rodeo.

Crew members salute during the National Anthem at the Eastern Montana Fair Rodeo

The crew rode a horse-drawn wagon in the rodeo grand entry, then watched the competition and mingled with the crowd.

Crew members at Gartner-Denowh Angus Ranch outside Sidney, MT

In the Sidney area they visited the Gartner-Denowh Angus Ranch, learning about a key part of Montana’s economy.

They also saw farming operations in the area, with combining well-underway.

Thanks to Kraken Oil, an active driller and producer in Montana, the sailors learned about Montana’s oil and gas sector.

On Friday night, the Sidney Veterans of Foreign Wars hosted a public dinner and reception for the crew where they had chances to meet many Montanans and Montana veterans. There were lots of questions for the crew – and lots of fun answers.

The next morning the Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative hosted a visit to a substation where the topic was how electricity is provided in rural parts of the country.

The Fort Peck Indian Reservation area and the Fort Kipp Pow Wow provided “awesome” opportunities to meet members of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, and others, at a traditional celebration of Native culture and traditions.

Crew members participate in Fort Kipp Pow Wow opening ceremony
MMN1 Campolattara with traditional blanket

Native people come together in such gatherings to sing, dance and drum as they honor their heritage and their veterans. The MONTANA crew members participated in the Pow Wow opening and honoring of veterans, as they learned of our Montana Native traditions and culture. Each was presented with a traditional Indian blanket.

In Fort Peck the crew attended a performance at the historic Fort Peck Theatre.

Cast and crew of Wait Until Dark with USS MONTANA crew members

Afterward they mingled with cast, crew and attendees, making more Montana friends.

Also, while there the crew spent time at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum, with its fascinating displays.

Tim Zabrocki, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, talks with crew members about the Fort Peck area

They included Montana’s dinosaur history as well as present-day wildlife.

Then it was on to the Fort Peck Dam – with a special powerhouse tour thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that manages the overall project for purposes of hydroelectric power generation, flood control and water quality management.

Tim Zabrocki and crew at Fort Peck powerhouse

There the crew learned that the dam, highest of six major ones on the Missouri River, is the largest hydraulically-filled dam in the United States and creates the Fort Peck Lake that is more than 130 miles long.

With the exception of not having enough time or good weather for fishing, the crew members were excited to have experienced some of Montana. But they were most impressed with Montanans. Said one sailor, “I really like the people here. They were very welcoming. It reminded me of home. And they were so supportive!”

Bunny Miller of Miles City helping crew members feel at home

What else is there to say, except that we are glad you came to see and meet us!

PS: Committee Steering Group member Bill Henderson, a former submariner himself, really impressed the sailors with his navigation skills while driving them through Eastern Montana. They said that he knew the area “like the back of his hand”. And in today’s high-tech world he never once used a GPS device – and never once got lost. Well done, Bill!