Newton to be represented on submarine

COVINGTON - Newton County will be represented on a U.S. Navy submarine that will be used for clandestine operations to fight worldwide terrorism.

Following a two-year conversion from a Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) to a Guided Missile Submarine (SSGN), the USS Georgia (SSGN 279), has been re-stationed at King's Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Marys. The submarine was previously stationed at a base in Washington state.

A dedication ceremony will take place at King's Bay in late March, when a state flag will be presented to the commanding officer.

But before that happens, the flag is making the rounds to Georgia's 159 counties, along with a notebook that will be signed and dated by county commission chairmen throughout the state.

The flag will be in Newton County on Thursday, and Board of Commissioners Chairman Aaron Varner will add his signature at 3:30 p.m. in the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St.

Representatives from the Navy League of the United States and local current and retired naval officers are expected to attend, according to Jim Dove, executive director of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center. The RDC is coordinating the effort in its 16-county region.

"It comes back to the point that it's a submarine that's been named the USS Georgia. I think it shows respect to this state by allowing us to have a part in the commission of that great ship," said Varner of the significance of the event.

The meeting is open to the public.

"County commission chairs and others have really gotten pumped up about it. We were able to set the schedule in our region in about two or three hours," Dove said. "They know how much it means, not only to Georgia, but to the world."

The USS Georgia will carry 154 tomahawk cruise missiles and accommodate a crew of more than 200, including 15 officers, 139 enlisted personnel and up to 66 special operations forces, Dove said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.