KITTERY, Maine — Even as Portsmouth Naval Shipyard looks back to a number of historic firsts this past year, Capt. William Greene said Friday it continues in its tradition by sending Navy submarines back into service on schedule.
And with more than 700 workers coming in this fiscal year alone, he said the future looks bright.
Greene, the shipyard commander, provided a yard primer of sorts to the members of the York Rotary Club on Friday morning. He said he has two primary jobs: to oversee the submarine maintenance yard workers undertake for Naval Sea Systems Command; and to act as base commander, “kind of like the mayor of the facility, or what we call the ‘roads and commodes’ guy,” he said.
As base commander, he has responsibility for a number of remote sites in Maine that are maintained by the Navy, including a Naval systems operation center in Prospect Harbor; an Atlantic Fleet submarine telecommunications system facility in Cutler; a recreational facility in Great Pond; and the 12,000-acre facility in Rangely used by the Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, school — home based at the shipyard.
Moreover, the Navy relies on the shipyard for pier service for the USS Constitution, or Old Ironsides, which is in Charleston, Mass. In fact, he said, the ship is going into drydock in May, and will undergo three years of maintenance work overseen by the shipyard.
The shipyard also maintains a facility in Port Loma, Calif., where submarines come in for repairs of shorter duration than the major overhauls that happen in Kittery. In addition, he said, the U.S. Air Force hires shipyard workers to perform overhaul and repair work on the motor generators at Minuteman missile silos — “because there’s only one place in the world that can do the work, and that’s the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”
“Our folks do travel quite a bit,” he said, saying their skills are in high demand. “They go all over the world to provide support to the fleet.”
Greene said history is important to the shipyard as well. “We’re proud of our past,” he said. Last Oct. 1 marked the 200th anniversary of the launching of the USS Washington, the first ship built at the yard; this past February, the yard celebrated the 100th anniversary of the keel laying of the first submarine built there.
There are other noteworthy dates, like Jan. 27, 1944, when yard workers launched four submarines on the same day — among the 79 subs launched that year. In May 1964, the yard commissioned, launched and laid the keel for three different subs in the same day, “something that never happened before and probably never will happen again.”
Currently, the yard has three subs in drydock — including USS Alexandria and USS Scranton, both undergoing major overhauls expected to take 330,000 “man days” of work; and USS Norfolk, which is going through an inactivation.
He also referenced half a dozen submarines that departed from the yard either on time or early — including USS Miami, which was inactivated this past spring following a fire set by a shipyard worker that destroyed parts of the interior.
“We have state-of-the-art facilities, and we deliver on time, safely and on budget,” he said. “It’s the best workforce in the world. There are very few people who can get the work done like we can. I’m extremely proud to be part of it.”