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Commander Vincent Kahnke, the Commanding Officer of USS Arkansas (SSN 800) will be visiting Mountain Home alongside members of his crew during a state-wide tour to form a commissioning committee.
The CO recently adopted Mountain Home’s NJROTC unit, making them honorary “Silent Travelers.”
During his time in Mountain Home, Cmdr. Kahnke will visit schools throughout the district and will hold an information meeting for veterans and community members at Dunbar Auditorium on Oct. 19 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The commander will also attend a Mountain Home City Council meeting and a school board meeting.
The crew of the USS Arkansas will end their visit by attending a junior high football game at Bomber Stadium.
“The goal of this visit is to garner support for the crew of the USS Arkansas from the residents and representatives of the state, and to develop a plan for establishment of a commissioning committee,” said Lieutenant Commander Allan Hale of Mountain Home’s NJROTC program. “The SSN 800 commissioning committee will be a statewide network of strong supporters aligned with a common vision to raise broad awareness and generate deep support for the commissioning of the nuclear submarine bearing the proud name ARKANSAS.”
Mountain Home’s NJROTC program has seen a revival over the past few years after losing its funding from the Navy due to low student interest. Today, with the help of Hale and NJROTC Jason Williams, the program has exploded to 133 students, up from the 85 cadets that were registered last year. If 150 students join the program, then a third NJROTC program instructor will be hired.
And student growth isn’t the only accomplishment underneath Williams’ and Hale’s belts. After several years of receiving no funding from the U.S. Navy, Mountain Home’s NJROTC program is now back in the fold, with funding being released in time for the new school year.
The program received its second “Distinguished Unit” title in April of this year. The title, which is based on cadet accomplishments, is given to units whose cadets score in the top 30% of all NJROTC units in the nation.
The USS Arkansas will be the fifth naval vessel to bear the name Arkansas in U.S. History. The original Arkansas was a Civil War-era screw steamer.
In 1902, an Arkansas-class monitor – the last in the U.S. Navy – was commissioned under the same name. The third ship to bear the name was a Wyoming-class battleship that was commissioned in 1912. The fourth was a Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser that served from 1980 to 1988.
As a Virginia-class submarine, the USS Arkansas will serve as one of the nation’s latest nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines with a focus on a broad spectrum of open ocean and littoral missions. The sub will feature the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapon systems technology. It will serve as the United States 27th Virginia-class submarine.
The keel for the USS Arkansas was laid in Virginia’s Newport News Shipyard in November of last year. The submarine’s sponsors are the six women of the Little Rock Nine – Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckfor, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Minnijean Brown Trickey, and Thelma Mothershed Wair.
The women were among the nine African-American children who were to first people of color to attend Central High School in Little Rock.
The USS Arkansas is expected to enter into service in 2025. Construction is expected to cost between $2.8 billion to $3.45 billion.