Payette Lake Water Christens USS Idaho Submarine

Thu Apr 11th, 2024


Linda Fleetwood of McCall stood by and watched as a nuclear-powered attack submarine named the USS Idaho was christened in Groton, Connecticut, on March 16.

The ceremony included Terri Stackley, the submarine’s sponsor, pouring bottles of water from Idaho lakes, including Payette Lake, onto the vessel in lieu of champagne.

Fleetwood, 87, grew up in McCall before enlisting in the U.S. Women’s Army Corp. She served in the U.S. Army for 25 years and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Fleetwood’s long U.S. Army service and deep ties to Idaho made the ceremony a spectacle to behold that she will not soon forget.

“The privilege to be invited, I would have gone regardless of what it cost,” she said. “It was the most impressive event I have ever attended.”

Fleetwood was in awe of the giant SSN 799 USS Idaho submarine, which took more than two years to build and cost more than $2 billion. The submarine weighs 8,000 tons, stretches to 377 feet long, and stands four stories tall and four stories wide.

Fleetwood also experienced the blessing of the submarine in which both Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce tribal members blessed the submarine and the crew.

She watched the tribal members share a ceremonial pipe with the crew and understood it to be an incredible and special moment.

“Never before have I witnessed such a celebration of who we are as a nation,” said Fleetwood.

The christening ceremony was intertwined with Idaho themes, including serving Idaho baked potatoes and Simplot French fries, said Fleetwood.

Waters from Lake Pend Oreille, Henry’s Lak, and Redfish Lake were also poured from bottles onto the USS Idaho during the ceremony.

The USS Idaho Commissioning Committee hosted seven visits to Idaho for the submarine’s crew members. Two of the crew members are current Idaho residents, including Andrew Leonhardt of Nampa and Robert Boscan of Hayden.

Dirk Kempthrone, chairman of the committee, said he wanted the crew to form a connection with the state of Idaho and its people, which is why the submarine mess hall was decorated in vistas of Idaho.

“We have undertaken to make a seamless connection between the great state of Idaho and the great ship Idaho, so that the citizens and the crew share in the pride of knowing they’re serving both,” said Kempthorne.

Crew members nicknamed the USS Idaho “The Predator” due to its stealth and speed. Much of the submarine’s stealth and nuclear power capabilities were developed in Idaho.

Lake Pend Oreille has hosted a U.S. Navy Base since 1946 and continues to test and develop new technology for the U.S. Navy.

A nuclear engine prototype designed for submarine propulsion was invented in Idaho.

The state also hosts the largest unmanned submarine in the world in Lake Pend Oreille.

“If any state has the United States Navy as part of its DNA, it is Idaho,” Kempthorne said.

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Payette Lake Water Christens USS Idaho Submarine

Linda Fleetwood stands by USS IDAHO.