USS Idaho Cooks Surface in Ketchum During State Culinary Tour

Mon May 27th, 2024

By RAIZA GIORGI Express Staff Writer

May 26, 2024 -- Idaho Mountain Express

Though Idaho is landlocked, the state has a long history with the U.S. Navy. Some of the first ships were named for the state, and Idaho is the site of labs advancing military technologies and capabilities.

The Sun Valley Lodge was formerly the site of the Navy’s convalescent hospital during World War II. Idaho Falls was crucial at the end of World War II as the Navy was developing its submarine nuclear power at what is now the Idaho National Laboratory. All the nuclear personnel from the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, trained in Idaho, according to naval history.

Richard Colburn is not only an Idahoan, born and raised, but a retired Navy captain and the chairman of the USS Idaho SSN 799 Commissioning Committee, tasked with helping plan and prepare for the activities of the Navy’s latest nuclear submarine. Colburn and some of his committee members gave a presentation at the American Legion in Ketchum on Friday, May 17.

“As law allows, the Navy can only support a one-hour commissioning ceremony, so we have been raising funds to not only support before and after activities and traditions, but to make the inside of the submarine look as though the crew is in Idaho,” Colburn said.

Colburn and his more than 100 committee members have raised more than $1 million and are hoping to raise another $400,000 before the USS Idaho’s commissioning ceremony, slated for late 2025 or early 2026. The funds will be used to install murals of Idaho landscapes and artifacts from the state’s Native American tribes and support a scholarship for USS Idaho sailors and their families.

“The crew are sometimes underwater for several weeks to several months, and we want to give them a sense of Idaho while they’re on board,” Colburn said. “We also want to honor all the warriors and veterans from the state.”

Colburn said he is proud to come from the state that has created what he called the two most important components of any submarine: acoustic stealth and nuclear technology.

“Naval acoustic research was done at Lake Pend Oreille, and nuclear technology was created at Idaho National Laboratory,” Colburn said.

Lake Pend Oreille is Idaho’s largest, deepest and quietest body of water, which is ideal for acoustic testing, according to the Commissioning Committee.

A few of the Ketchum Legion members wanted to further support the USS Idaho. They hosted two culinary crewmen for two weeks, helping them learn the state’s cuisine.

The two culinary crewmen are CSS2 Manuel Amador and CSSSA Cody Smart. They have spent time at the nonprofit Sun Valley Culinary Institute learning from its chefs and have visited establishments and landmarks around central Idaho to understand the local flavors and scenery.

“I have traveled a lot, but there hasn’t been a place like Idaho. It’s been wonderful getting to learn about the Basque history and learning how to prepare trout and elk,” Amador said Friday. “We will take these skills back to the boat and get to prepare them for the crew, as well as dignitaries that might come aboard.”Amador loved military movies like “Top Gun” and “Men of Honor” while growing up and knew he also wanted to serve in the military one day. His parents immigrated to Miami, Florida, from Cuba, and he wanted to serve the country that had done so much for his family.“They really didn’t want me to enlist, so I decided to pursue my other passion and enrolled in culinary school,” Amador said.He ended up working as a chef at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami. He was content—at least until COVID-19 hit and all restaurants were shut down.“I decided it was time to fulfill my other dream and enlisted into the U.S. Navy,” Amador said. “I love that I get to help the morale of the crew by preparing their meals.”Smart has only been in the Navy for nine months. He told his recruiting officer that he didn’t want to be on a submarine and he didn’t want to be a cook.“That didn’t turn out well,” Smart said to a laughing American Legion crowd.Smart said he still enjoys his post. While he is planning to attend Navy Seal school eventually, he is grateful for his crew and excited to be among the first sailors on the USS Idaho.Many steps remain before the USS Idaho will be fully operational, Colburn said. He showed the crowd video from the submarine’s March 16 christening ceremony in Groton, Connecticut, where the submarine is being constructed and tested.

“What was really incredible is that instead of champagne, we used waters from four different lakes in Idaho,” Colburn said.

Water from Redfish Lake, Lake Pend Oreille, Henrys Lake and Payette Lake was bottled by Idaho’s 44 North vodka distillery in Shelley. Colburn said the distillery had to test carbonation and pressurization many times to ensure the bottle would break over the bow like a champagne bottle during the christening.

Members of the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes were also present at the christening. They shared special ceremonies and brought gifts to the officers of the USS Idaho.

To watch the christening ceremony, visit Idaho Public Television’s YouTube page at

The USS Idaho’s next steps are sea trials, which will take several months, before delivery to the U.S. Navy. The USS Idaho is scheduled to be in operation sometime late next year, Colburn said.

Members of the American Legion asked questions, talked to the culinary crew and sampled 44 North’s special-label Waters of Idaho huckleberry vodka.

To learn more about the USS Idaho and help support the committee by donating or purchasing merchandise, visit