The captain of the USS Greeneville (SSN 772) said there was no “undue concern” on their end for their latest trip to Saipan, which happens to take place exactly 11 years since the Los Angeles class submarine run aground.
The incident on Aug. 27, 2001 was an “unfortunate occurrence,” according to Commander Martin Muckian. “They found that there were some navigation practices that were not up to Navy standards and contributed to the grounding.”
Before running aground, USS Greeneville made international news when it struck in February 2001 the Japanese fishery training vessel Ehime Maru off the waters of Hawaii, causing the deaths of the nine crew members and four high school students.
In January 2002, it collided with USS Ogden while transferring personnel in Oman, resulting in a gaping hole in one of Ogden's fuel tanks and spilling large amounts of fuel to the open seas.
But several years after those incidents, USS Greeneville “has nothing but success,” according to Muckian, who leads the group of 150 officers and service members for the submarine named after the Tennessee town-home of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the nation-and arrived without any mishaps Monday morning.
“Most of it has been on classified operations, but she's done very, very well,” he said, including winning competitions for the best submarine in their squadron.
The 40-year-old Muckian disclosed in an interview Wednesday that the entire crew of USS Greeneville, which was in the Philippines then out at sea for three weeks before heading to Saipan, said they were very excited to come back and finally make that long overdue arrival on Saipan.
Muckian, who was named commander only in February, said that this is his second visit to the island. “I've been to Saipan once before in 2005 on a different submarine, USS Louisville,” he said, adding that he was not on board Greeneville when the 2001 incident happened.
According to Muckian, Saipan is considered a “great place to be” and is “highly regarded” for its island hospitality, beautiful diving spots, and pristine beaches, among others. “There are port visits that people like to go to and there are port visits that they don't want to go to and Saipan is definitely one of those that's high on the list of places to visit.”
Their stay on Saipan, Muckian said, has his crew “very relaxed” after spending weeks and months at sea.
The commander thanked the community for its “world-renowned” hafa adai spirit and “legendary” hospitality.
“We as sailors away from home and away from our families, really appreciate the hospitality and warm welcome you give us,” he told Saipan Tribune. “We hope that we returned that in kind and we hope to return many, many times in the future.”
As a token of appreciation, Muckian presented ball caps and plaques to officials of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce which hosted a reception for the USS Greeneville crew at Tony Roma's in Garapan.
Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman, chair of the Chamber's Armed Forces Committee, welcomed USS Greeneville and handed Muckian a softbound book detailing all Naval ships, including the USS Greeneville, which have visited the CNMI.
Wiseman noted that the USS Greeneville's arrival coincided in one of the heaviest rains that the island experienced this year.
“I issued a court order giving you at least two days without rain, and it's working. Sometimes, the powers that control are not in my jurisdiction, so it's a hit and miss. But it looks like it might be working this time,” he quipped, drawing laughter from his audience.
The USS Greeneville left Saipan yesterday.