Inside the U.S.S. Ohio, a nuclear submarine in the Pacific fleet - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Inside the U.S.S. Ohio, a nuclear submarine in the Pacific fleet

Posted: Updated: May 06, 2014 07:25 AM
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SAN DIEGO - The U.S.S. Ohio  (SSGN 726) in San Diego is still a heavily guarded and very secret weapon. It's dark, massive and as long as the Washington Monument is high, at nearly the length of two football fields.

As you climb inside the U.S.S. Ohio, you climb down a long narrow hatch. Once inside, while tight, it is surprisingly spacious for a submarine.

While we were on-board the submarine, the crew took the sub several feet underwater. The first order of business was teaching us how to plug into the air line and breathe if something goes wrong.

"Take a breath and make sure it seals so that you are getting air properly," said a crewman.

The command control center is the brain of the sub. The periscope works like you see in the movies; the view looking through it is kind of like using high-tech binoculars at the surface.

Two young sailors steer the boat and make it dive.

All of these men and women volunteer to be there, it's an elite operation.

"Most, if not all, of the sailors on board are very exceptional -- the cream of the crop if you will -- and they have to be, because they are in charge of awesome power," said U.S.S. Ohio Capt. Mike Lewis.

Orange Tubes fill the submarine, these tubes were designed to hold 24 ballistic nuclear missiles that would make the sub all by itself one of the top five nuclear powers in the world. But, the Ohio has been retrofitted to hold non-nuclear guided missiles and other special cargo.

In a silo that used to house a nuclear missile, there is now a hatch so Navy SEALs can get inside.

"The seals will come in here, inside this tube. It will fill with water, and they will swim out of the sub to conduct their operations," said Rear Admiral Phillip G. Sawyer, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The U.S. Navy provided video footage that shows the SEALs using their own smaller submarine that rides on the back of the Ohio. It allows the seals to go land virtually anywhere totally unseen by any enemy.

"And they are usually gonna go do something, you know... bad things to bad people. That's the whole goal," said Rear Adm. Sawyer.

And the SEALs always want to be ready for action. Their work out equipment is crammed into every spare corner of the Ohio: barbells and cardio machines. You need that kind of distraction because life on board a submarine like this can be spartan as they bunk 9 to a room.

"Each person gets their own rack; they get a bunk pan to put their stuff in," said Lt. Josh Matters.

The Captain's cabin is a little bigger, but still it's pretty close quarters. FOX 10 asked how do they get along.

"We love and hate each other like brother and sister; there are days where we are laughing and smiling, days we are fighting, but at the end of the day we are always professionals," said Ensign Megan Stachitas.

The Ohio can stay underwater for three straight months. She only needs to surface to get more food for her crew. The kitchen here is always busy; sailors get four square meals a day.

The Ohio also makes its own power, filters drinking water and that's not all: the Ohio actually makes it's own air using an oxygen generator. They pull in seawater from the ocean, put electricity through it, separate the oxygen from the hydrogen and that's what they breathe.

In addition to her missiles and SEALs, the Ohio has torpedoes on board. They even let FOX 10 fire an empty torpedo tube.

And in what may have been the most intense part of our tour, the captain put the Ohio through a drill demonstrating how fast the Ohio can dive and climb. At an extreme pitch, it causes the crew to lean to balance themselves.

As the tour came to a close, the ship surfaced and headed into port.

"I've been doing this for 24 years. I wouldn't have done it this long if I didn't enjoy it really, because I watch young sailors come on board and grow into seasoned submariners. I take great pride in watching that happen," said Capt. Lewis.

Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer is in charge of every submarine in the Pacific. He grew up in the valley and graduated from Maryvale High School.

Read more about Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer in this report: Phoenix native in command of the U.S. Pacific Submarine Fleet
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