Effingham County is helping the rest of the state welcome home the submarine that bears Georgia’s name.
The USS Georgia has been undergoing a re-fitting for the last three years, being converted from a ballistic missile submarine to a special operations-capable sub carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles. It will be homeported at the Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Marys and will arrive there later this month.
Taking part in the ceremony Thursday at Veterans Park meant a lot especially to two Effingham veterans of the submarine service.
“I had always loved my country and I always wanted to be in the submarine force,” said Gerald Mobley, a 24-year Navy veteran who served aboard four boats. “To be able to serve my country the way I did was an honor. I have the utmost respect for submariners and wish them calm seas, smooth sailing and a safe return. Run silent, run deep.”
Mobley served on the USS James K. Polk, the Von Steuben, the Silversides and the John Marshall. Submariners often spend months away from home, completely under water for the length of their cruise.
They also have to know every aspect of the jobs aboard a submarine and living in the confined quarters also means they have to rely on each other.
“When you are on a submarine, you relied on the other guys for your life,” said local attorney Richard Rafter, who served aboard the USS Ulysses S. Grant. “You trained on every system. Everyone from a seaman to a chief (petty officer) had a responsibility to know the sub inside and out. You had to trust them with your life.”
Said Mobley: “You trained in all aspects of the submarine.”
Missile boats such as the Grant, Von Steuben and John Marshall often went on three-month tours of duty. Fast attack boats could be out at sea for much longer stretches.
“Missile boat duty was really good duty,” Rafter said. “You really adapted to it. It was like being in an office with no windows.”
A flag and log book to be signed in all 159 Georgia counties has been making its way across the state, with Effingham being the 152nd on the itinerary. The state’s regional development centers are sponsoring the event.
“I think it sends a message to the crew of the USS Georgia as it comes home that our country really cares and they appreciate what they do to help keep us safe,” said Allen Burns, executive director of the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center. “I think this has been a great project for the Navy, a great project for Georgia and a great project for Effingham County.”