BANGOR, WASH. - A native Nevadan, Cmdr. Walter Luthiger, has assumed command of the USS Nevada, a ballistic missile submarine.
The 40 -year-old Luthiger, a Las Vegan, now leads both "Gold" and "Blue" crews of SSBN-733, stationed in Bangor, Wash.
The Nevada, an Ohio Class nuclear submarine, has two separate crews, each with its own captain. Known as the Gold and Blue crews, one is ashore training and resting, the other is at sea on patrols that can last 70 days or longer. Presently the Nevada is slated for an extensive refitting that will take a year or more.
Having completed his tour of duty on the Nevada, Gold crew Cmdr. Murray Snyder, relinquished the command to Luthiger, who has commanded the Nevada's Blue crew since November of last year.
Luthiger is a native of Las Vegas, where he graduated from Bishop Gorman High School. In 1982, he received a bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was commissioned through the Navy ROTC program.
In 1989, Luthiger served as weapons officer on the submarine USS Chicago, and later as executive officer on the submarine USS Michigan.
"We've got the best people in the world," Luthiger said. "They can fix anything. Being skipper of the Nevada is a really cool job."
Among those attending the change-of-command ceremony were members of the Reno and Carson City Navy Leagues.
The present-day Nevada is the fourth U.S. warship to bear the name "Nevada."
The first Nevada, a 335 foot steamer, was commissioned in 1863, a year before Nevada was admitted to the Union. The second Nevada (BM-8), was a 252-foot harbor defense monitor built in 1898. She served until 1906.
Third was the 583-foot, 27,500-ton battleship Nevada (BB-36), built in 1916.
She was considered one of the first "dreadnoughts." Moored at the east end of "Battleship Row" when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, she was the only battleship able to get under way.
Fighting her way to the open sea, she was severely damaged from multiple torpedo strikes. She was beached in order to prevent being sunk in the channel. Refloated in 1942, she served until the close of WW II, receiving seven Battle Stars for her distinguished service. The silver service from the battleship Nevada's officer's mess can be seen at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City .
The submarine that bears the name "Nevada," is one of 17 Ohio Class submarines to be named after a state. At 560 feet, she is nearly two football fields long. Carrying 24 nuclear-tipped missiles, she packs more firepower than all the bombs dropped in WW II. Launched on Sept. 14, 1985, she was christened by Nevada's first lady, Mrs. Paul Laxalt.
Commenting on the recent loss of a Russian submarine, the Kursk, Chief of the Board, Senior Chief Petty Officer Walt Harvey, a veteran of 25 years of service, said, "We don't think of the Russians as our enemies. We submariners are all brothers. The crew was very concerned for the Kursk."
A service was held for her crew on the Nevada during which a bell was rung for every crew member lost.
Now serving in peacetime, the crews of the Nevada believe her presence serves as a deterrent to any potential aggressor, and hope she will never need to fire a shot in anger.