USS-Columbia submariners visit namesake city

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COLUMBIA - Sailors and submariners from Pearl Harbor in Hawaii have a strong connection to Columbia, and are in town to show their gratitude for Columbia's support over the years.

“The purpose of going to the namesake cities, it’s really an opportunity for us to say thank you to all the great people here in Columbia, Missouri and to the other namesake cities for the support that we get," USS Columbia Commander, David Edgerton said. "It really means a lot to us and its a reminder of why we do what we do out there."

The USS Columbia is a fast-attack submarine that holds 150 sailors and plenty of Mizzou memorabilia. In September 1994, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton christened and sponsored the submarine.

"It's not as cramped as you would think, or maybe I'm just used to it," Edgerton said.

The sailors and submariners aboard the USS Columbia said they hold a special place in their heart for Columbia, Missouri, Columbia, Illinois and Columbia, South Carolina.

"It's a challenging job for sailors and submariners but it's very rewarding and it certainly makes it easier to do the job when we're reminded of support like the great people here in Columbia, Missouri," Edgerton said.

These sailors also have close relationships with the Columbia Fire Department, Benton Elementary School and even the Flat Branch restaurant. All submariners on board are also trained firefighters.

For Flat Branch's manager, Paul Huesgen, the connection with the USS Columbia dates back nearly 10 years. 

"I started waiting tables maybe a decade ago and they were some of the first tables I waited on," said Huesgen. "They come back every year."

The submarine's mess hall where the crew eats is named, 'Flat Branch Cafe," after Columbia's own Flat Branch restaurant.

“Mizzou has also been very supportive of the USS Columbia and there’s a great Columbia submarine support committee here." Edgerton said. "It’s a very nice group that sends things like Christmas cards to the sailors on board. We’re going to be deployed on Christmas this year and that means a lot."

The submarine is lined with MU flags, MU banners and signs, and a large 'Mizzou Man Cave' sign.

Referring to their only milk machine on the submarine, Edgerton said, "You can see the tiger on that. That's a nice magnet that was sent from Mizzou, that's on our milk machine so we're very fortunate to have great food and sometimes things like milk are a little bit of a luxury on a submarine."

Despite the long-distance relationship the USS Columbia and its 3 namesake cities have, Edgerton said they remain close.

The sailors and submariners will be at the MU Football game against Purdue Saturday. They will also attend a public reception Thursday evening.

The Columbia Mayor's Task Force committee representative Anne Moore said there's, "no city funding used for visit."