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USS Albany Carries on Submarine Battle Flag Tradition
by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cameron Stoner
17 August 2020
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albany (SSN 753), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, participated in a longstanding submarine tradition during its recent deployment.
The boat’s crew honored their recent deployment by creating a submarine battle flag. The flag consists of patches stitched together, each one representing a different accomplishment or memory made by the crew.
Cmdr. Mathias Vorachek, Albany’s commanding officer, spoke of the flag’s importance in maintaining the connection of the boat’s current crew to submariners of the past.
“The Albany battle flag is significant to the crew as not only a method to commemorate the ship’s twelfth deployment in her 30-year service history, but it provides us a lasting connection to our World War II submariners and their victories in combat,” said Vorachek.
Beginning in World War II, the flags became a way for U.S. submarines to keep an unofficial record of the number of ships sank. While today’s flags have taken on new meaning, Sailors continue to find unique ways of showing respect to those who came before them.
“To pay homage to their heroic efforts, we named our watch sections after some of the well-known World War II submarines such as Tang, Barb, and Wahoo,” Vorachek said. “These ships were well-known for their battle flags, which the crews constructed through their pride and creativity. My crew took a page from their history to emulate this concept to capture our recent accomplishments.”
On June 10, 2020, Albany returned home after a seven-month deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility. Upon Albany’s return, the battle flag consisted of:
• patches representing four port visits,
• a dolphin with a blue nose signifying the boat’s operations in the Arctic region,
• a mask patch displaying the crew’s unique response to the worldwide Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak,
• three patches to represent coordinated exercises with other navies,
• the number 12 to commemorate the boat’s 12th deployment
• the numbers seven, five and three jumping off a diving board to represent the boat’s 753rd dive corresponding with its hull number,
• a patch displaying the teamwork and camaraderie during a friendly soccer match with the crew of the French nuclear-powered submarine Émeraude (S604),
• a patch representing the boat’s transits through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Strait of Sicily,
• a patch showing the commitment of the boat’s nuclear operators to ensure mission readiness, and
• a patch signifying the successful qualification of 31 crewmembers in submarines.
Although the flag’s patches each represent a distinctive moment in the boat’s history, the flag also brought the boat’s crew together as they collaborated through its creation.
“The flag was entirely a crew effort,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Matthew Carter. “Being a submariner is all about camaraderie. When we earn our dolphins, we all get to pin them on each other. If it wasn’t for this team effort, the battle flag wouldn’t have happened.”
Spanning the entirety of Albany’s 12th deployment, the flag’s construction brought the crew closer together as they looked for ways to leave a mark in Albany’s history.
“The flag gave me a strong sense of accomplishment as departments and crew members would come together to help guide its creation,” said Carter. “I’m proud the flag turned out so well.”
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities - sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.
Albany, whose motto is "Still Making History," is the fifth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of New York's capital city. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat Division, Albany was commissioned April 7, 1990, as the 43rd nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class submarine.
The Los Angeles-class submarine is 360 feet long and 33 feet wide, and weighs about 6,900 tons when submerged. Underwater, it can reach speeds in excess of 25 knots.
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