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Posted February 5, 2013

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North Star Students Learn About Life on the USS New Mexico

Submarine commander made a personal appearance to see pen pals.

Commander George Perez of the USS New Mexico told students about life at sea.

It turns out the USS New Mexico never needs to stop for gas, but the naval submarine did stop in port long enough for two of its leaders to pay a visit to North Star Elementary. 

Fourth graders at the school have been corresponding as pen pals with the crew of sub, which is based in Groton, Conn. Last week, Commander George Perez and Master Chief Steve Fitzler visited their correspondents in-person on their way to an official trip to Santa Fe. Students participated in a question-and-answer session that told them everything they could want to know about life under the sea. 

Perez gave them the basics, that the USS New Mexico is 377 feet long and has 136 sailors on board who work 18-hour days. They pack enough food to be able to spend 120 days at sea, surfacing at least every eight days. He wasn’t allowed to tell students the lowest depth the sub has traveled, but it’s “more than 800 feet.” 

Of course, students wanted to know about battles and firing torpedoes. The sub hasn’t seen battle action since it was launched in 2010, but they test the firing system once a year and participate in training exercises with some of the 45 other U.S. subs. 

“It’s sort of like a game of laser tag with the other subs,” Perez said. 

Perez told students sailors enjoy watching animals while at sea. Dolphins play in the sub’s wake, and they’ve seen plenty of whales, sharks and sea turtles. He also said the crew works well together. 

“We’re like a family,” Perez answered in response to a question about whether there had ever been a mutiny. 

Perez and Fitzler also fielded questions about what it takes to work on a sub. 

“Study your math, study your physics,” Perez told his pen pals.

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