Luling man spends Christmas with deployed son...on Navy submarine
As part of a special guest cruise program, Gary Steckel was able to spend the holidays with his son on a submarine.
Gary Steckel never thought he would get to see his son, Jeremie Steckel, at work. As a petty officer in the Navy who works on submarines, Jeremie cannot just bring his parents to the office.
But in late December, as part of a special guest cruise program, Gary and 17 other relatives were taken aboard the USS Ohio submarine for five days.
While Gary has toured submarines that Jeremie worked on previously, this is the first time he got to see his son’s day-to-day life in the Navy and spend more than a few hours on the submarine.
"For ships that are coming back from deployment, (the military) at times allows family members to come on board and finish out the final trip to the mainland on the ship," Gary said. "But this was the first time they had offered where you could actually come back on the submarine while it was submerged."
Gary spent five days on the submerged ship with his son, getting the opportunity to tour the boat, participate in onboard activities and see his son at work.
"When my son was on duty, they allowed me to spend the time with him to see what he’s doing, what his job was and how he performed his job," Gary said. "The whole thing was awesome."
Gary even had the opportunity to drive the submarine at one point. He also got to take part in emergency training exercises and an activity called "Angles and Dangles" in which the submarine would rise and submerge hundreds of feet as fast as it could.
"That was really interesting because the angle of the submarine going up and down was pretty dramatic," he said.
The ship traveled between 800 and 200 feet underwater during the trip.
Gary was chosen to go on the trip as part of a first-come-first-serve basis. He left the mainland in Alaska and took a boat to where the submarine was stationed 45 minutes away. He then climbed over a rope ladder into the sub.
In the five days he was on board, the boat traveled from the waters off of Alaska to the coast of Washington.
"It was definitely one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had," Gary said.
The vessel that Gary traveled in used to be a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, he said, but after the Russian Arms Treaty it was retrofitted as a guided missile submarine and the ballistic warheads were removed.
The submarine is used to deploy and receive Special Forces, such as Navy Seals, while underwater.
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