CO, Crew Connect with Montanans during Event-Packed Week (posted 3/20/24)

With nearly two-dozen events in the western part of the Treasure State during the week of March 11-17, the captain and crew members of the USS MONTANA (SSN 794) met lots of Montanans – and had many unique experiences related to Montana’s history, culture and economy.

While the next visiting crew members may have to come from Hawaii after the MONTANA moves to her new Pearl Harbor home port this summer, those who were here agreed that they had a fantastic – and busy – time, and need to return! The visitors were CDR Jon Quimby, the SSN 794 commanding officer; LT Jake Hodges, Assistant Operations Officer; Machinist Mate Nuclear and 2023 Sailor of the Year Nate Fisher; and, Culinary Specialist Chase Rosas, lead cook aboard the MONTANA who had a very special learning experience in Butte…

Special highlights of the tour from Bigfork, Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls to the Flathead Indian reservation, Butte, Boulder, and Missoula, included:

• A visit to the top of Big Mountain at the Whitefish Mountain Resort where snow was falling and skiers and snow boarders were enjoying Montana’s winter sports economy. Hosts for the visit were members of the Whitefish Veterans Support Team that provides veterans, many disabled, with winter sports experiences that show appreciation and build confidence.

In recognition of the important safety and rescue roles of the Ski Patrol, especially with new enthusiasts and those needing a bit of help, the CO and crew members presented the Patrol with an appreciation plaque for permanent display on the mountain.

• Visits with Kalispell high school and middle school students to explain not only the USS MONTANA and her capabilities, but also what life below the sea is like. Questions were remarkable, including a number clearly anticipating future education and career decisions.

• Time with residents of the Columbia Falls Veterans Home, to hear their stories and experiences, and to thank them. There were also plenty of questions to answer about the missions and work of the future veterans currently serving on SSN 794.

• Flathead Indian Reservation stops at the Three Chiefs Culture Center and Tribal Complex of the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai Tribes that make up the Reservation’s Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, or CSKT. Here the CO and crew learned about Tribal culture, and saw the CSKT Veterans Memorial from which one element of the submarine’s emblem was inspired — a pair of eagle feathers as they also appear on U.S. military department shields at the Memorial.

There was discussion of Tribal governance, and a flag flown over the submarine was presented to the Chairman and members of the Tribal Council in appreciation of CSKT support of the USS MONTANA her crew over the years.

A special performance by the Yamn-Ćut/Brothers Drum group followed recording of a victory song, a copy of which will be given to the MONTANA.

• In Butte there was much to learn about the unique history of the Mining City, with help of an Historic District walking tour and a visit to the World Museum of Mining where some underground tunnels and shafts are still used by Montana Tech for educational purposes.

Then there were the pasties! These meat-and-vegetable pies were favorite lunches of the thousands of miners who worked in Butte’s deep underground mines over generations. The ladies of Butte, led by Connie Powers, had made and sent 300 traditional pasties for a crew family picnic in Norfolk, VA before the MONTANA’s commissioning ceremony in 2022. But in Butte, CSS2 Rosas and CDR Quimby learned from Connie the finer points of pasty-making, with the golden brown results then served at a community leaders lunch. (In addition to the photos below, for a fun KXLF-TV/MTN news report by reporter Meagan Thompson on the pasty making, click here.)

• A visit to the Montana Highway Patrol Headquarters in Boulder allowed the crew to accept an invitation to learn more about this unique law enforcement organization. The MHP also carries the 3-7-77 vigilante calling card on its emblem in recognition of the brief period of transition in the mid-1800s from lawlessness in parts of Montana to a formal territorial justice system.

• In Missoula on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, the sailors led the annual celebration parade. With their banner on a Missoula Fire Department engine, they were clearly appreciated (as you’ll see if you click here for a brief video look)!

• During the week, the CO and crew members had more than a half-dozen media interviews, including statewide and local radio, along with newspaper and television coverage.

• And, at stops in Bigfork, Kalispell, Butte and Missoula, there were public events both formal and informal, during which Montanans and the young sailors preparing to defend our nation could get to know one another. For the CO and the crew, these were special opportunities to thank Montanans for their caring support.

A special moment came at such an event in Kalispell. There the ladies of the Bigfork Piecemakers Quilt Guild were honored by the crew with a plaque in recognition of their having hand-made, for more that 5-and-a-half-years, personalized heirloom-quality quilts for every crew newborn baby.

The week was one unlikely to be forgotten by the CO and crew members of the USS MONTANA – or by the many Montanans who were able to personally thank those who will, before long, be “on scene, unseen” in potentially dangerous places, ready to defend our nation if called upon.

The USS Montana Committee thanks all who helped make the crew tour a successful and memorable one. In addition to all the other individuals too numerous to mention, we give special recognition to Bill and Valerie Goodwin, the Bigfork, Kalispell and Missoula Area Chambers of Commerce, Bigfork and Kalispell VFW Posts, Butte American Legion Post, Columbia Falls Veterans Home, Comfort Inn Butte and the Town Pump Foundation, Glacier Bank, Kalispell Toyota, United Veterans Council of Silver Bow County, USSVI Montana Base, Western Montana Military Officers Association, Whitefish Mountain Resort, and Whitefish Veterans Support Team.