By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
While the newest of the U.S. Navy's Virginia Class submarines is in dry dock getting some upgrades and a good going over after a long shakedown cruise, the commander of the USS Mississippi, Capt. John McGrath, stopped by Friday in Meridian to visit with members of the Council of the Mississippi Navy League.
"The ship is already getting some upgrades that have come on line since she began construction five years ago," said McGrath prior to the program. "We will be taking on more personnel and getting the contractor to address some little issues we found."
After that, the submarine will head to its new port of call, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The USS Mississippi is capable of traditional submarine roles, such as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. It can also do some very unusual things. It can operate in shallow waters and bring out special forces. It can do irregular warfare. it can do reconnaissance. It can do intelligence-gathering and it can do it all completely undetected.
The 7,800-ton USS Mississippi (SSN 782), which cost $2 billion, is the ninth submarine in its class. It carries a complement of 145 crew members. Her nuclear fuel capacity means she will be able to patrol the waters of the world for 30 years without refueling.
"She will stand always ready and the crew and I will see to it that her aim is always true," McGrath said.
Since the Mississippi has been in port, McGrath has been on the speaking trail speaking at with Navy ROTC programs and telling the public about the vessel's first extended sea trials. McGrath said the shakedown cruise was an attempt to let the crew test the USS Mississippi's readiness for their first real deployment orders after they reach Pearl Harbor.
"With all new vessels there is a time when the ship and crew must go out for an extended stay and see what each can or can't do," McGrath said. "We have been able in the Mississippi to do things that past subs in our class haven't been able to do. We had a successful cruise."
McGrath, however, won't be commanding the Mississippi when she sails for Hawaii. In fact, he said about half of the crew that took her out on this latest shakedown won't be with her either.
"There is always a turnover in crew for subs," said McGrath.