May 2023 Newsletter

Greetings From The NJ Submarine Commissioning Committee

It is an honor to be part of the commissioning of the USS NEW JERSEY (SSN 796).  We are working diligently to ensure that all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed – our goal is to have “the best commissioning ever.”

There is a great deal of behind the scenes work being done to ensure that the crew is recognized, honored, and supported – for both the commissioning week and time afterwards.  They deserve it!

Simultaneously, we are diligently investigating ways to “tell the story” – of the navy, of submarines, of the USS NEW JERSEY, and of the crew.  This newsletter is one of the vehicles.  We hope you enjoy it, and pass it along to friends and family.

Social Media will play a big role in our communication.

Feel free to use your social media skills to help us spread the word.

Lastly – we will be engaging in relationships with newspapers, radio stations, etc. to provide another medium to inform the public.  Be on the look-out.

It will be a great ride.  We’ll make sure that you stay informed.  Enjoy!!

~ Peter Engelman, Treasurer and Trustee

News From The Boat

The crew of PCU NEW JERSEY started out the month of April prepping for and successfully completing the Reactor Safeguard Exam certifying the crew for initial criticality and Power Range Steam Testing (PRST).

The crew will now go into the shift work until Steam Testing is complete. On April 14th, NEW JERSEY Celebrated the Submarine Community by attending the Submarine Birthday Ball in Virginia Beach, VA. The ball was a major success and was led by the Master of Ceremony COB STSCM Hamilton Felt. As the AFT portion of the boat completes PRST, FWD departments will continue training toward Sea Trial Operations and delivering PCU NEW JERSEY to the Naval Fleet.

Introducing Our Newest Trustee

Mike Zimmerman has joined the Commissioning Committee as its newest Trustee. Mr. Zimmerman recently retired from the New Jersey State Police after nearly three decades of service. During his tenure he was known to be a highly accomplished law enforcement leader with a proven track record in directing multiple large-scale operations. Throughout this time, he served in all branches of the organization, successfully developing and executing new initiatives and overhauling workflow to enhance capabilities and achieve organizational objectives.

Prior to his retirement, Mr. Zimmerman was the Field Operations Commanding Officer, which held the honor of commanding over 1,700 uniformed Troopers who encountered millions of citizens a year. In this position he planned, coordinated, and supervised major multi-county events, and partnered with Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the United States Secret Service. In addition, he served as the Operations Section Chief for New Jersey’s deployment and relief effort in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. He facilitated the diversification of the high-profile Tactical Patrol Unit, and assumed Incident Command for many planned and emergent events in New Jersey.

Mr. Zimmerman previously held the position of Adjunct Professor at Monmouth University’s Graduate Criminal Justice Program, and New Jersey City University’s Professional Security Studies Program. He received his undergraduate degree from Richard Stockton University and postgraduate degree from Seton Hall University.

Concurrent to his service to the State of New Jersey, Mr. Zimmerman is a dedicated father of two young men and servant to the community. He served as a mentor and coach to many youth sports. He was the past president of the local Parent Teacher Organization, and volunteered for countless organizations. 

Elizabeth, NJ – The Birthplace of the United States Submarine Force

The birthday of the United States Submarine Force is April 11. Numerous military units and veterans’ organizations celebrate this special day every year with ballroom dinners, ceremonies, proclamations of remembrance, and more. Conspicuously absent from these Submarine Birthday celebrations is any mention or recognition of the Submarine Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey.

John Philip Holland built the first modern submarine. He is known as the father of the modern submarine, creating the first underwater vessel purchased by the United States. He was a school teacher in Ireland who immigrated to Paterson, New Jersey, where he obtained a teaching position. The New Jersey inventor built a submersible vehicle powered by foot pedals in 1873. The U.S. Navy rejected this variation of the submarine. He sought to keep trying, and by 1875, he was able to launch his first submarine. It was built to carry torpedoes and be fixed onto the bottom of a ship. This version was divided into four compartments with air chambers and pipes leading to the middle, where Holland would use the foot pedals and a diver helmet to move the propellers.

John Phillip Holland would be persistent in evolving his submarine. It would take up to 26 years until 1899 in Elizabeth, NJ, where Holland made the “Holland VI” submarine that was launched from the Port of Elizabeth and sailed to Washington, DC via the Delaware River and the Raritan Canal. When Holland VI arrived in Washington, DC, it went through a series of trials by the U.S. Navy. Holland’s submarine passed the naval board of inspection and would be purchased by the U.S Navy for $165,000. This landed John Philip Holland as the inventor of the modern submarine and Elizabeth, NJ, as the Birthplace of the United States Submarine Force.

Namesake Visit to Elizabeth, NJ

The Commissioning Committee partnered with the City of Elizabeth, the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, the Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization, and the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in recognizing the role that Elizabeth, NJ has played in the development of the US Submarine Force and more formally recognize Elizabeth, NJ as the Birthplace of the United States Submarine Force.  

While in Elizabeth, the crew attended assemblies at Juan Pablo Duarte – Jose Julian Marti School No. 28, the site where Electric Boat, now a subsidiary of General Dynamics, built and launched the USS HOLLAND (SS-1) on 11 April, 1900.  A total of 900 middle school students were in attendance.  Several proclamations and letters of recognition were presented to Mayor Christian Bollwage, highlighting the history and partnership with the City of Elizabeth.  The crew also attended an assembly at Admiral Halsey High School with the junior ROTC program where the cadets were able to interact with the crew and learn more about careers in the US Navy.  Students from the culinary academy served a very impressive lunch to all in attendance, a crowd of over 250! 

Eight members of the crew, including Captain Steven Halle, made the trip from Norfolk, VA, where the USS NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) is in its final stages of construction, to Elizabeth, NJ early April.  

Along the way, the crew stopped in Camden, NJ, to tour the Battleship New Jersey (BB 62), the second of three Navy vessels to share the name “New Jersey.”  

Mayor Bollwage’s TV show – SPT Television

In addition to the visits to the school, the crew and members of the Commissioning Committee appeared on the Mayor’s TV show and SPT Television, discussing the construction and upcoming commissioning of the boat and sharing their experiences in the Navy. 

Commander Steven Halle, CO of the USS NEW JERSEY; and Stephen Hutton, Chairman of the Commissioning Committee

Seen here Commander Steven Halle, CO of the USS NEW JERSEY; and Stephen Hutton, Chairman of the Commissioning Committee

Special Thanks

Jennifer Costa, President of the Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce was a gracious host and tour guide throughout the week, introducing the crew and committee to local businesses and organizations including Community Access Unlimited, IKEA, First Presbyterian Church, Imperial Ring, Roc’s Bakery, and the Newark Airport. 

Thanks also to the Elizabeth Police Department for helping make sure we got wherever we needed to be on time. A great group that make a hard job look easy!

Local Cuisine – Thanks to Elizabeth Police Department and the Elizabeth PBA Local #4

The Elizabeth Police Department and the Elizabeth PBA Local #4 hosted the crew and committee to a delicious dinner at Valenca Restaurant. We were joined by Ship’s Sponsor, Dr. Susan DiMarco and Elizabeth’s Mayor Bollwage.

Martinho and Teresa Pereira established Valenca Restaurant in 1989 bringing traditional Portuguese delicacies and trademark hospitality to Elizabeth.  The food and service were fantastic! 

The USS NEW JERSEY Visits The New Jersey Devils!

Tuesday evening of our visit, the crew were able to interact with several fans at the NJ Devils game. The Devils showed their strength in a victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.

Highlights included the ship’s crew being announced to the cheering crowd of thousands while the ship’s crest and crew members were shown on the giant screens for all to see. The crew circulated around the arena meeting fans as well as being greeted by Jake Reynolds, President of HB Sports & Entertainment; and Jim Leonard, SVP Government Relations & Foundations for HB Sports & Entertainment. The Devils organization presented a ‘Jersey’ Jersey for the NEW JERSEY.

Status of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour

Before leaving the Elizabeth area, the crew had an early morning tour of the Statue of Liberty.  Although the views were somewhat diminished due to the weather, the crew climbed the 354 steps to the crown of Lady Liberty.  While there, the crew were able to meet several other guests, including Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.

Presentation to Johnson & Johnson

On the way back to Norfolk, the crew stopped for a visit with team members at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick.  Captain Steven A. Halle, together with Joseph Velez, a Trustee with the Commissioning Committee, presented a plaque to John Perez, Head of Military and Veterans Affairs, and Gina Fritz, Manager of FM Services, in recognition of J&J’s continued support of the boat and her crew.  

The four day “Namesake” visit was quite a success. 

The Committee is planning its next multi-day visit for August
to coincide with the Atlantic City Air Show.    

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Elizabeth Week Kicks Off!

[Elizabeth, NJ – April 3rd, 2023] The crew of the USS NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) visited the ELIZABETH PUBLIC SCHOOLS and the City of Elizabeth as part of a namesake visit to the State of New Jersey to further the relationships between the boat and its namesake, the state of New Jersey, and to raise awareness of the upcoming commissioning of the US Navy‘s newest Virginia Class submarine.

Elizabeth School 28
The crew received an amazing welcome at School 28 in Elizabeth, NJ

The New Jersey Commissioning Committee is partnering with the City of Elizabeth, the GREATER ELIZABETH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, the Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization, and the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in recognizing the role that Elizabeth, NJ has played in the development of the US submarine force and to more formally recognize Elizabeth, NJ as the Birthplace of the United States Submarine Force.

Mayor Bollwage’s ‘Our City’ Event for Elizabeth. NJ

Thanks to Mayor Bollwage of the City of Elizabeth, NJ for hosting a Q&A with Commander Steven Halle (CO of the submarine PCU NEW JERSEY), and Stephen Hutton, Chairman of the Commissioning Committee.

We explained the purpose of a commissioning committee, and shared information about life aboard a submarine. We also talked specifically about the to-be commissioned submarine being completed at the Huntingdon Ingalls Industry shipyards in Virginia, the USS NEW JERSEY. Elizabeth, New Jersey was where the very first commissioned US Navy Submarine was constructed: the USS HOLLAND (SS-1).


This was an important part of a week’s worth of events in and around Elizabeth, NJ as we celebrated what is considered to be the birthplace of the US Navy’s Submarine Force. Elizabeth was the city where the very first US Navy submarine ever to be commissioned was built: the USS Holland (SS-1).

She was acquired by the USN on 11 April 1900 and commissioned on 12 October 1900, Lieutenant H. H. Caldwell commanding.

‘Namesake’ Visit to NJ Starts on the BB62

[Camden, NJ April 2, 2023] As usual we kicked off our most recent crew visit from the USS NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) with a visit to the prior USS NEW JERSEY, the Battleship New Jersey (BB 62). It’s a tradition now that the visiting crewmembers sign a banner to show they’ve visited the battleship. Pictured below are two of the first female enlisted personnel to visit as part of these events.

Signing the banner

Some of the rest of the crew having just driven up from Virginia to begin their ‘namesake’ visit to NJ.

Casual on the BB 62

The submarine has only recently begun to receive female enlisted crew members to join their ranks. The NEW JERSEY is the first in her class of submarines to be designed and built with the intent of supporting a fully integrated male/female crew. This allows the Navy to widen the pool of talented individuals that they can assign to our nation’s submarines.

Thank you to the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial for hosting several of the crew of the newest USS NEW JERSEY (SSN 796). Special thanks to Jack Willard for hosting and Timi Lindsay and Joe Lario for being there to welcome the crew! Eight members of the crew are visiting New Jersey this week on a namesake visit to continue to build a strong relationship between the boat and its namesake, the State of New Jersey, including Commanding Officer Steven Halle, STSCM Hamilton Felt – Chief of the Boat, ENS Lillian Baker, ETN2 Joy Shirey, STS2 Kenny Ortega, MMN3 Kianna Gonzales, LSSA Ocean Bouck, and FTSR Amelia Fast.


Today (11/18/22) crew members from the new Virginia-class fast attack submarine PCU NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) visited the Naval ROTC unit at Rutgers University. This visit is part of our committee’s continuing efforts to bring the crew to her namesake state to conduct youth outreach, community service projects, cultural and historical activities, and corporate introductions.

Our goal is to build a long-term relationship between our state and the submarine for the life of the boat.

Some quotes from crew members during the presentations and Q&A:

“Jersey is the pilot platform, first fast attack to have a fully integrated crew with female enlisted submariners. In fact, we get our first female Chief in 3 weeks”

“Navy nuclear training is like College 3.0.  I had no idea how much I would learn … then when I got on board and looked at my qualification card requirements I thought, I don’t know any of this stuff”

Continuing education and development is ‘part and parcel’ of being in the US Navy’s submarine force.

Committee Presents to Rotary Club of Morris Plains

This morning committee members Paul Blodgett and Stephen Hutton had the opportunity and privilege to make a presentation to the Rotary Club of Morris Plains describing our mission and informing about the future addition to the submarine fleet: the USS New Jersey (SSN 796).

The presentation was well received and some excellent questions were asked.

Thanks to the members for such a warm welcome and allowing us the opportunity to talk about this new submarine.

August Namesake Visit – Camden and Philadelphia

On Sunday the 29th of August, the crew was given a tour of the Battleship New Jersey BB-62 and observed CPO Initiation Ceremony conducted onboard the battleship.

After an outstanding tour, the crew was hosted by the Iron Worker Union Local 12698 at tailgate and Phillies versus Pirates baseball game.

The crew then returned to Virginia completing another memorable crew hometown visit.

  • Author Captain Joe Lario

Atlantic City Air Show Here We Come

Only a few days away from the Atlantic City Air Show and we are ready. Look for us on the boardwalk by ‘Boardwalk Hall’ right next to the tent for the Battleship New Jersey. We’re bringing several crew members up from the new submarine the USS New Jersey to visit Atlantic City and get to know our state.

During the air show we’ll be manning our tent and looking for you to stop by if you’re there to meet us and some of the submarine’s crew. Come and meet us and learn about our mission of supporting the newest USS New Jersey as she readies to join the fleet next year. The sailors will be selling some souvenir items – ball caps, t-shirts, and more… and we will have a few little giveaways too!

We’ve done several of these crew visits now in various parts of NJ to introduce the crew to their namesake state as well as to give our state’s residents a chance to meet the sailors who will be proudly sailing the third US warship named New Jersey.

Interested in helping the committee?

Drop us a line via our contact page:

SubFest in Montgomery, NJ

A fantastic ‘SubFest’ was organized by the Montgomery News to celebrate the new USS New Jersey (SSN 796), a Virginia Class Fast Attack Submarine currently under construction and scheduled to join the fleet in 2023.

The event took place on cool and windy June 18th 2022

Plenty of food and drinks were available, local vendors had tables to display their wares, and two bands entertained the crowd. Our committee were given a table to set up and talk about our role, while the visiting crew members joined us and sold USS New Jersey sweatshirts, t-shirts, ball caps, coins and more as souvenirs. The profit from the crew’s sales go towards their MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) fund.

Several local, including town mayor Devra Keenan, gave people a chance to dunk them if they could hit the target with a thrown ball. Kudos to Devra and every other brave soul for doing this as it wasn’t the warmest day and the dunkings must have been freezing cold!

Mayor Devra Keenan
Mayor of Montgomery Township, Devra Keenan

The main attraction of the day was the second band performing on stage – ‘Slippery When Wet’ – considered the best Bon Jovi tribute band in the country! Their performance was outstanding and the crowd really enjoyed the music. To view a video of their performance of It’s My Life (and more) click here

Slippery When Wet – Bon Jovi Tribute Band

During a break in the music crew members were asked up on stage and introduced to the crowd by Norman Silverstein! Norman was the power behind this whole event and the committee is grateful to him for everything he did to make this a reality!

Local media in addition to The Montgomery Press were in evidence and our own Chairman Stephen Hutton was interviewed to get our committee’s explanation of what we’re doing and why…

A few more videos of the event can be viewed here

Visit To Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate HQ

On Thursday June 16th five crew members from the brand new USS New Jersey SSN 796 were invited along with members of the Commissioning Committee (Stephen Hutton, Joe Velez, and John Koehr) to visit Johnson & Johnson’s corporate HQ in New Brunswick, NJ.

The first part of our visit was a warm welcome at Johnson Hall were breakfast was waiting. We spent some time mixing with J&J employees, several of whom were themselves military veterans. Following breakfast were were treated to being among the first guests ever to get to be given a tour of their new Johnson & Johnson museum.

After the fascinating tour (I never knew J&J invented duct tape!) we were invited back to the main building where we met with the head of HR for J&J for a great conversation about the company and the J&J Credo. A quick trip to the company store followed where the sailors purchased some items to take back to Virginia.

It was time for lunch and the crew and committee were taken up to the executive dining room where numerous former military employees joined us and broke bread. J&J really embraces employing military veterans and one side benefit of several of our namesake visits have been showing career opportunities for sailors once they (not too soon we hope) leave the US Navy.

Thanks to committee trustee Joe Velez for organizing the visit.

Trenton Navy Week – Part 6 – Saturday May 7th

Today consisted of tours of the Battleship New Jersey (BB-62) for crew members and setting up displays in the officers’ wardroom to showcase the submarine, the commissioning committee, and US Navy recruiting. Several tours went through the battleship and visitors stopped by to meet the sailors.

The weather was horrendous however, with heavy rain and wind and that literally put a damper on attendance by the public.

Trenton Navy Week – Part 4 – Thursday May 5th

Today we switched out crew members, bringing new sailors up from VA while the original ones headed back to the submarine and shipyard. The XO remained for continuity and oversight to ensure things continued smoothly. While six sailors joined the Navy Week activities at a ‘rescue mission’ in Trenton, the committee began our namesake activities today with breakfast at the Cinnaminson Diner, in Cinnaminson, NJ.

We’re proud of our NJ diners and want to make sure as many crew members as possible are able to enjoy the experience!

Adapting to some schedule changes, committee member John Koehr helped work out a visit for the sailors to the Philadelphia side of the river. But first a tour of the Battleship New Jersey (another regular and important feature of each namesake visit) and signing the banner on board.

After the tour a trip over the bridge to Philadelphia

First stop was the cruiser Olympia (C-6) at the Independence Seaport Museum. She is listed as the oldest remaining steel ship afloat. She was built and placed into commission by the United States Navy for the first time in February 1895 as a state-of-the-art man of war.

Next up was a visit to the USS Becuna. The Becuna is a Balao-class submarine, now a museum, and is a former United States Navy submarine. She was designated a National Historic Landmark for her service in World War II, for which she earned four battle stars.

The crew then traveled back to New Jersey for “Cinco de Mayo” celebrations at the Bellemara Distillery in Hillsborough, hosted by Camden Winkelstein, the owner, head distiller, and also a former submarine officer. Several members of the committee joined the crew for a relaxing evening. Hillsborough Township Committeeman Frank DelCore attended the event and greeted the sailors from the submarine New Jersey (SSN-796).

The Flounder Brewery (next door to the distillery) also hosted the sailors and kindly offered a share of their sales for the night to the committee. Thanks both to Cam at Bellemara and to Jeremy Lees (President of Flounders Brewing Co., LLC).

Throughout the day crew members were greeted by members of the public and thanked for their service.  New Jersey crew members were deeply moved by the public support throughout New Jersey and Philadelphia and impressed by the number of proud veterans and former submariners they met.

Trenton Navy Week – Part 3 – Wednesday May 4th

Our originally scheduled school visit had to be cancelled due to some issues getting sufficient youngsters to attend. The 12 PCU New Jersey crew members instead joined the rest of the Navy Week sailors at a cleanup operation at Alberta Woods Park in Camden, NJ.

Our own committee member (recently retired) US Navy Captain ‘Timi’ Lindsay, joined the sailors. She can be seen in the photo above.

Trenton Navy Week – Part 2 – Tuesday May 3rd

Our committee’s portion of Navy Week (which we’re supplementing with additional crew members as a ‘namesake visit’) kicked off with a visit to the major defense contractor L3Harris in Trenton, NJ.

The folks at L3Harris really rolled out the red carpet and gave us an extensive tour allowing crew members to learn more about the company, it’s product line, and all the work that happens right there in Trenton.

After L3Harris the sailors had lunch and then joined the rest of the sailors in NJ for Navy Week to participate in a Habitat For Humanity project for the remainder of the day.

Trenton Navy Week – Part 1 – Monday May 2nd

Today the committee started our own portion of the Navy Week with a tour of Princeton Plasma Physics where the crew and commissioning committee members were treated to a chance to view the NSTXU fusion reactor. This spherical device is shaped like a cored apple rather than the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. It can produce high-pressure plasmas — essential ingredients for fusion reactions — with relatively low and cost-effective magnetic fields. 


Next stop was a quick lunch at PJ’s Pancake House in Lawrence Township as we make sure the crew visits include the ‘diner experience’.

After lunch crew members visited Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly. The sailors gave a talk to several jNROTC units and entertained numerous questions on a variety of topics relating to life on a submarine. Great questions and some really engaged young men and women.

Aboard BB62

Next we moved down to Camden and went aboard the Battleship New Jersey (BB62) for a quick tour, proceeding a recruitment ceremony where several young men and women were formerly sworn into the US Navy by the CO of the PCU New Jersey, Cmdr. Jared Smith. A small US Navy band played music prior to the ceremony.

After the ceremony we escorted the sailors from the submarine to join the committee for an informal dinner in the officers’ wardroom.

Before breaking bread the committee presented the The Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial with the central portion of the bow flag from the submarine’s christening ceremony (as seen in the photo below). Cmdr Smith joined committee chairman Stephen Hutton in making the presentation.

Bow flag

Committee Chairman Stephen Hutton then presented the ‘Junior sailor of the Year’ award to TM2(SS) Trevor E. Garmane.

Followed by ‘Senior Sailor of the Year’ to MMN1(SS) Paul E. Baker III

We wrapped the evening up by enjoying a fun, relaxed, and casual dinner organized by our own committee member Captain Joe Lario, USN (Ret).

A long day but a great kick off to our ‘namesake’ portion of Navy Week.

Keel Authentication Ceremony

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., March 25, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (NYSE: HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division hosted a keel authentication ceremony today for the Virginia-class attack submarine New Jersey (SSN 796).

“We enjoy participating in the Navy’s many traditions,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “They offer us an opportunity to pause and reflect on our daily work and remind the talented shipbuilders and the crew of the important role we all play in something much greater than ourselves—our nation’s defense.

Keel Authentication of Virginia-Class Attack Submarine New Jersey (SSN 796)
Jess Batruk, a Newport News Shipbuilding welder originally from New Jersey, displays the welded initials of Susan DiMarco, the sponsor of submarine New Jersey (SSN 796). Also pictured (left to right) are Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding; DiMarco; and Cmdr. Joseph Spinks, the submarine’s commanding officer. Photo by Ashley Cowan/HII

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