USS Scranton Commanders to Visit Namesake City

The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 756). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Cameron Bramha

The USS Scranton is known in Navy circles as the Iron Horse.

Cmdr. Seth Burton said if that is an apt nickname for a submarine that has been a work horse for the American military for the past 25 years, it is also a commentary on the boat's namesake city.

"What I tell everybody is the crew absolutely reflects the character of the city of Scranton," said Cmdr. Burton, who served as the submarine's 10th commanding officer from 2012 to 2014. "They are independent, hard-working people who are very proud of what they do.

"They don't need the praise or the public spotlight. They are just working hard day in and day out."

Beginning Sunday, Cmdr. Burton, 43, will visit Scranton with nine of the 10 other men who have skippered the USS Scranton to help mark the 25th anniversary of the submarine's commissioning and celebrate its ties to the city. They will participate in a series of events and activities through Tuesday morning.

Moosic psychiatrist Matthew A. Berger, M.D., chairman of the USS Scranton Commanders' Commemoration Committee, described the reunion as historic and perhaps unprecedented.

"It's very unusual to have this many commanders from the same boat in the same place at the same time," Dr. Berger said. "It's actually very cool, and it's an honor to have these guys here."

The Navy's Los Angeles-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine, the USS Scranton was commissioned Jan. 26, 1991, at Norfolk, Virginia, which became its home port.

In the years since, the submarine has done nine deployments, Cmdr. Burton said. Although the ship and its crew have spent much of their time in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, they also have traveled beneath the ice at the North Pole and into the Indian Ocean.

"She has been called into action multiple times, both for things we can't talk about and things we can talk about that made the news," he said.

The latter included a support role in Operation Odyssey Dawn in March 2011, when the Scranton launched Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean at Libyan air defenses.

Since August 2014, the Scranton has been undergoing a two-year engineered overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Dr. Berger said the commemoration committee's major event will be Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Commonwealth Medical College, where all 10 commanders will be welcomed at a reception. Veterans and active-duty military personnel are invited to attend the reception.

On Monday from 9 to 11 a.m., a group of commanders will discuss the USS Scranton with students from a local eighth-grade history class at the Scranton Public Library. The presentation is open to the public. The library is also hosting a public exhibit about the submarine through May 15.

Other commanders will visit the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center and the medical college Monday morning.

Dr. Berger got involved in the commemoration after he happened to strike up a conversation with retired Vice Adm. John M. Bird, who commanded the Scranton from 1994 to 1996, while attending an unrelated event in Huntsville, Alabama.

When Adm. Bird mentioned he and the other commanders planned to get together in Scranton, Dr. Berger said he took it upon himself "to get the ball rolling" and start lining up support for the visit.

That is when he realized many people in the Scranton area are not aware there is a submarine named after the city.

"The vast majority of people have no idea when I talk to them," Dr. Berger said. "They're like, 'What? We have a boat?'"

Cmdr. Burton, who currently is assigned to the Joint Staff for the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff in Suffolk, Virginia, will be making his second visit to the city. He is looking forward to spending time with colleagues who all share an attachment to what he called a "special boat."

Once the overhaul at Portsmouth is complete, the USS Scranton will head to San Diego, Cmdr. Burton said. That is where the submarine likely will serve out the last 10 or so years of its active-duty life in the Pacific as part of the Navy's West Coast-based Submarine Squadron 11.

"Her time in Norfolk is over," he said. "That's another reason we wanted to get together while she was still in Kittery. It will be the last time this boat is on the East Coast."

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