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USS Alexandria Crew Visits Their Namesake

From the Middle East in summer to the North Pole in winter.

Alexandria's City flag will soon fly at the top of the world. When the USS Alexandria punches through the ice inside the Arctic Circle at the North Pole on their next mission, the crew will plant the flag presented to them by Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille last Friday at City Hall.

In town to participate in the city's Presidents Day festivities, crew members of the nuclear-powered Los Angeles Class attack submarine named after the cities of Alexandria, VA, and Alexandria, LA, also presented a $757 check to Inova Alexandria Hospital Administrator and IHS Vice President Kenneth Kozloff. It will be used in the further development of the hospital's neo natal intensive care unit, according to Kozloff. The amount corresponds to the ship's hull number, 757, according to Robert Smith, chairman, USS Alexandria Liaison Committee.

"They raised the money while they were on their seven-month mission to the Middle East to show their appreciation for the support they get from the City. We are supporting both the sailors and their families," Smith said during a luncheon Saturday at Chadwicks in honor of the crew and their hospital donation.

The Liaison Committee maintains a strong relationship between local citizens and the boat's crew and families. It funds visits by the crew and provides awards to Sailors of the Quarter and Sailors of the Year.

It also recognizes sailors that complete college courses while deployed and provides special gifts to support social and recreational activities. The Committee is supported in its endeavors by citizens and businesses throughout the City, according to Smith.

Sunday, Captain Michael Bernacchi, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Alexandria and the six crew members who accompanied him to Alexandria were treated to a luncheon at Pat Troy's Ireland's Own Restaurant & Pub compliments of the Navy League. On Monday morning they were guests of the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association during their Annual Meeting Breakfast at the Holiday Inn & Suites.

In addition to participating in the City's George Washington Birthday Parade, Bernacchi and his crew members took part in a

wreathlaying ceremony at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier of the

Revolution. They returned to Groton, Conn., the boat's home port, following the parade.

"This is my first trip to Alexandria since I became Commanding Officer of the Alexandria about 18 months ago. But, I'm very familiar with the area. My wife and I own a home in Fairfax County and hope to retire here," Bernacchi said.

"We have very deep roots in this area. My about nine greats grandfather from Maryland, Charles Carroll, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence," Bernacchi said.

"I have a really great crew. All six of the sailors accompanying me on this trip have either been Sailor of The Year or Sailor of The Quarter. The reason the Alexandria is such a great boat is because of the 160 young men that make up her crew," he said.

Officers and enlisted crew members accompanying Bernacchi were: CDMCM Wes Koshoffer; LTJG Lewis Patterson; EM1 Chris McCormack; MM3 Nicholas Vecchione; ET3 Charles Lee; and STSSN Dustin Katzberg. Some members were accompanied by their wives. They all received complimentary rooms at Old Town's Embassy Suites Hotel.

Their mission to the North Pole is to undertake scientific experiments and deliver items to the research team at the American station there, according to crew members. "We are going to take a picture of the Alexandria flag flying at the North Pole and send it to the Mayor," Bernacchi said. The flag itself will be returned to the City for display after its trip to the top of the world.

DURING HIS REMARKS at the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association breakfast Monday Bernacchi gave some history and statistics about the USS Alexandria. "We can stay on station for months without being detected. In addition to our firepower, we bring the capabilities of observation and intelligence gathering," he explained.

"When you live in a tube for seven months at a time it can get a little stressful. That is why the Alexandria Liaison Committee is so important to us. Alexandria is a small city to have a major Navy vessel named for it," Bernacchi said.

"We are incredibly proud to bear the name Alexandria. To honor that fact our ball caps have the City crest on them rather than the normal submarine cap insignia of crossed dolphins," he told the crowd at the Holiday Inn & Suites Monday morning.

"To keep the City informed about our events and progress, I write the Mayor a quarterly report," Bernacchi said. Commissioned in 1991, the USS Alexandria performed five classified missions during

its last deployment. Her replacement cost today would be about $2 billion, according to Bernacchi. The life span of a boat such as the Alexandria is estimated at 30 to 35 years. "She's about half way there," a crew member acknowledged.

During her 2004 deployment, she became the first Los Angeles-class submarine to circumnavigate the globe in the way she did. Departing Groton submarine base on June 11, 2004, the "Alex," as the crew refers to the boat, "transited under the Arctic ice to the Pacific, entered the US Central Command's area and returned home via the Suez Canal, Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean." During this deployment she also became the first US nuclear-powered submarine to visit GOA, India.

The Alexandria's most recent seven-month tour included being part of the Enterprise Battlegroup in support of the global war on

terrorism and making goodwill stops in France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Diego Garcia, and Spain. This required spending 90 percent of her mission at sea, according to provided information.

Last month the Alexandria was awarded the DEVRON-12 Battle "E" winner recognizing her as best in squadron for 2006. This marks the second time she has won the award in the last three years.