GROTON, Conn. -- The South Dakota, the Navy's Virginia-class submarine, which will be commissioned on Saturday, may get its propulsion from a nuclear reactor, but it runs on something else, according to its captain.
"The galley truly is the heart of the submarine," said Commander Craig Litty, South Dakota's commanding officer. And that's not only because it's located roughly in the middle of the ship.
The galley is the submarine's kitchen, a restaurant operation that runs basically around the clock, preparing pizza, burgers and other dishes to the crew of 142, mostly sailors in their late teens and early 20s.
"When you're stuck in a tube and don't see sunlight, the meal's what makes you happy," said Culinary Specialist Senior Chief Chris Peddycoart, who leads the six culinary specialists who churn out fresh bread, pizza and tacos, among other offerings.
The work basically never stops, Peddycoart said. As soon as his crew finishes serving one meal, they get started on the next. "They have long, busy days every day," he said.
Depending on the sub's schedule, they will prepare three or four meals a day, serving all 123 enlisted men in shifts in the 30-seat crew's mess, called Wild Bill's Bistro after folk hero and lawman Wild Bill Hickok, who was famously shot dead during a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota. The 19 officers dine in the ward room between the galley and the boat's control center.
The numbers involved in taking 142 men out into the ocean for any considerable length of time can be staggering.
The South Dakota will put to sea with 180 dozen fresh eggs and 45-gallon containers of fresh milk; Peddycoart said the crew could go through three or four of those containers a day. After the eggs and milk run out, the cooks switch to powdered eggs and "shelf-stable" ultra-high temperature processed milk, which doesn't need refrigeration and tastes almost like fresh milk, he said, except for a chalky taste.
On weekly pizza nights, the galley prepares 200 portions of dough, said Peddycoart, one of a handful of the crew who are from the state of South Dakota. That's enough to make 72 pizzas, said the 38-year-old culinary specialist chief, who has been in the Navy for 20 years and served on three other subs.
One other consumable fuels the crew, he said: "The guys are big coffee drinkers. We go through a lot of coffee," available 24 hours a day.
Standing in South Dakota's auxiliary machine room -- home to all of the non-nuclear machinery that makes the boat work -- Command Master Chief Adam Goulas explains the systems on which the sailors rely. Goulas is the chief of the boat, also known as COB, the highest-ranking enlisted man. Modern technology allows the submarine to make its own air and water, which allows the ship to stay underwater for months at a time.
The only limiting factor to how long the boat can stay submerged is the food. When that runs out, the ship must surface to be resupplied.
The South Dakota is the 17th of the Virginia class of fast-attack submarines, which are designed to hunt and sink other submarines and surface ships, as well as perform special operations in shallow coastal waters. This is as opposed to ballistic-missile submarines, currently the Ohio class, but about to be replaced by the Columbia class, that hide in deep water, awaiting orders to launch their nuclear missiles, part of America's three-pronged nuclear deterrent of bombers, land-based missiles and sub-launched missiles.
The new submarine will be third Navy ship named South Dakota, after an early 20th-century armored cruiser and a World War II battleship that served near Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Iwo Jima and other Pacific battles, earning 13 battle stars.
This article is written by Paul Edward Parker from The Providence Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.