SILVERDALE, Wash. – A 2000 Wayne High School graduate and Huber Heights native is serving aboard one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, living and working at a Navy base in Silverdale, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Helms is an electronics technician on USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), which is based in Silverdale, about 15 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. Electronics technicians maintain exterior communications.
“I enjoy the difficulty of my job,” said Helms. “It is always changing which makes it very dynamic.”
USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) is one of the Navy’s 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, also referred to as “boomers”, which patrol the world’s oceans for months at a time, serving as undetectable launch platforms for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Together with land-based missiles and strategic bombers, the Navy’s Ohio-class submarines are part of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrence triad. Because of their stealth, they are considered the most survivable component of the triad.
Ohio-class submarines like USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) have a very high operational availability due to an innovative crewing concept. Each submarine has two crews, Blue and Gold, which alternate manning the submarines and taking them on patrol. This maximizes the sub’s strategic availability, reduces the number of submarines required to meet strategic requirements, and allows for proper crew training, readiness, and morale. Helms serves on the USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) Blue Crew.
As a sailor with numerous responsibilities, Helms said he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person.
“I have gained an immense amount of discipline that I did not have before,” said Helms.
With approximately 15 officers and 140 enlisted comprising the submarine’s company, jobs are highly varied. Each member of the crew plays a role in keeping the submarine’s mission ready — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the propulsion system.
“We protect and defend America from below the world’s oceans and no other nation can match our capabilities,” said Rear Adm. Dave Kriete, commander, Submarine Group Nine in Bangor, Wash. “Our submarine force could not thrive without the professionalism and skill of our sailors. These men and women, whose mission is often unsung because of its discreet nature, represent the finest characteristics of our nation’s military. Their families, friends, and the entire nation should be extremely proud of what they do every day.”
Helms said he is proud of the work he is doing as a member of the crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans.
“I enjoy assisting other people in developing their lives and careers,” said Helms.
In addition to USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), seven other Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are home ported in Kitsap County, Wash., along with three Seawolf-class submarines and two Ohio-class guided missile submarines that are all assigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Fast, maneuverable and technically advanced, submarines are some of the most versatile ships in the Navy. They are capable of conducting a variety of missions that can include engaging enemy vessels in the sea, launching missiles at targets on land, providing a platform for SEALS to operate from, and conducting intelligence and surveillance around the world.
Because of the demanding nature of service aboard submarines, sailors like Helms are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation that can last several months. The crews have to be highly motivated, and adapt quickly to changing conditions.
“I really enjoy working and helping all the people that surround me,” said Helms. “The Navy rewards those who put forth the effort and my reward has come back tenfold.”
The Navy is currently developing a follow-on submarine to replace the Ohio-class, which will begin to reach the end of their service lives in the late 2020s. The Ohio Replacement Ballistic Missile Submarines will remain in service through the 2080s. The Ohio Replacement submarine will continue to fulfill the country’s critical strategic deterrence mission while incorporating cost-effective and reliable systems that are advanced, yet technologically mature.