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Naval officer given key to the city

Two commanding officers of the under-construction USS South Dakota were given Mitchell's key to the city Thursday morning during their visit to the Corn Palace.

Ensign Benjamin Wallace, right, speaks with attendees of a social to honor five crew members of the under-construction USS South Dakota submarine during their visit Thursday to the Corn Palace. (Jake Shama/Republic)
Ensign Benjamin Wallace, right, speaks with attendees of a social to honor five crew members of the under-construction USS South Dakota submarine during their visit Thursday to the Corn Palace. (Jake Shama/Republic)

Two commanding officers of the under-construction USS South Dakota were given Mitchell's key to the city Thursday morning during their visit to the Corn Palace.

Commander Ron Withrow and Senior Chief Yeoman Bryan Randall were given the honor by Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey after the officers and three crew members, Ensign Benjamin Wallace, Electronics Technician Nuclear First Class Isaiah Tuohey and Yeoman Third Class Connor Stevenson, toured the Corn Palace.

"I want you to take it aboard that submarine," Toomey said of the key. "When you look at that, think of the people of South Dakota, and know that we are proud of you and proud of our new submarine."

Construction on the USS South Dakota, also known as SSN 790, began March 2013 and is expected to be christened in the summer of 2017, according to the ship's website. The boat will be the first naval unit named after South Dakota since a highly decorated battleship that was decommissioned after World War II.

USS South Dakota will be a 377-foot long Virginia-class attack submarine weighing 7,800 tons, designed to serve a myriad of mission types, including anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, protecting ballistic missile submarines, reconnaissance and special forces support and delivery. The boat will also be equipped with up to 12 tomahawk land attack missiles, Withrow said.

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"It's very exciting to be on board a fast-attack submarine," he said.

About 60 crew members have been identified, but 134 personnel will man the vessel at its completion.

Randall said the Navy is replacing all Los Angeles-class submarines with the newer Virginia-class. About 46 submarines are planned to be constructed. The South Dakota is 17th on the list.

The submarine is being constructed in pieces in Groton, Connecticut, alongside nearly complete submarines like USS Illinois and USS Colorado.

"Parts of it look like a submarine," Withrow said. "The great thing about being in a shipyard is you can see the ships that are ahead of you, so we can see where we're going to be in a year and two years from now."

The three crew members had never set foot in South Dakota before this visit, they said, but they had much praise to share from their short time in the state.

"Thank you for all your hospitality, everybody. South Dakota's been outstanding. I'm looking forward to the rest of our trip," Wallace said.

"This is actually my first submarine, so I am very proud to be here," Tuohey followed. "I chose my orders. I chose to be a part of the South Dakota, and I'm very proud that I did."

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Withrow said tours of the vessel will be available once construction is complete and it is stationed in a submarine base.

Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey, right, presents USS South Dakota Commander Ron Withrow, left, with the key to the city Thursday at the Corn Palace. A key was also given to Senior Chief Yeoman Bryan Randall. (Jake Shama/Republic)
Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey, right, presents USS South Dakota Commander Ron Withrow, left, with the key to the city Thursday at the Corn Palace. A key was also given to Senior Chief Yeoman Bryan Randall. (Jake Shama/Republic)

Related Topics: CORN PALACE
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