Sailor continues Ohio father's legacy on the newest old ship in the Navy

Family has long history with USS Gettysburg
Samantha Nassif
Posted at 5:03 PM, May 04, 2023

NORFOLK, Va. — Decades-old ships are being reborn as the U.S. Navy prepares to defend democracy on the high seas while rough waters ripple within the geopolitical realm.

It’s no secret that the United States fleet of Navy warships is a little on the older side. Some have sat for years without a single mission while they’re updated.

“Imagine having a 91 Trans-Am and then making it all electric and trying to upgrade it, that’s essentially what we’ve done here,” said Commander Thomas Hoffman, Executive Officer of USS Gettysburg.

From the combat suite to top-of-the-line computers, weapons systems and radar upgrades, Hoffman said the Gettysburg is prepared for the future.

“This is the most capable cruiser in the world and the most technologically advanced cruiser in the world,” he said.

The rebuild has taken more than eight years with still another year before being mission-ready, Hoffman said, as crews take it out for small runs to continue working out the kinks.

Ensign Samantha Nassif, who has family in Ohio, is the electrical safety officer on the ship.

“My job is to oversee everything electrical. We had to install new lighting systems, we had to revamp all of our switchboards. We’ve really built this ship back from eight years of inactivity,” she explained.

She has a special connection to the Gettysburg, a ship she could see herself becoming the commanding officer of if things work out with her Navy career the way she envisions.

“My father served on this ship 30 years ago, Ohio native, it’s exciting to see where you come from. It’s in our family,” Nassif said.

The Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget is focused on shipbuilding funding with a request of $32.8 billion to help with getting nine new ships including submarines, destroyers, tenders and frigates. The budget lays out a plan to build 11 ships a year over 35 years to bring the Navy fleet to 385 ships.

Ship upgrades aren’t the only work being done in Norfolk, Virginia. While there are a variety of ships in dry dock receiving extensive upgrades, some are getting upgrades in between missions.

“We’re doing routine but infrequent work on the engine room keeping the nuclear propulsion in the highest rate of readiness,” said Commander Christopher Wilbur.

He serves as the executive officer on USS New Hampshire a Virginia-class attack submarine.

“Every time we’re in port we’re fixing the ship, making it better, upgrading, putting in new software,” he added.

He’s aware of the aging fleet having served on two previous ships that have since been decommissioned. As for the USS New Hampshire, which is 15 years old, Wilbur said it’s the youngest submarine he’s served on and recognizes the need for the Navy to push for upgrades and newer ships to take the mission well into the future.

“We are taking a long view at problems — we have legitimate challenges our advisories do get better each and every day and that’s something we should expect and anticipate going into the future,” Wilber said.

As for the future of our country’s Naval forces the Congressional Research Service recently published the Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans for the United States Congress. You can read more here.

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