Proper Longhorns for USS Texas (SSN-775)

Members of the Greater Austin Council (GAC), Navy League of the United States, joined by leadership and midshipmen of the University of Texas Naval ROTC (UT NROTC) Unit, gathered at the Texas State Capitol on 7 December 2012. The purpose of this assembly was to present a set of authentic 7 foot spread Texas longhorns to USS Texas (SSN-775), a Virginia class attack submarine homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It was the 72nd anniversary of the surprise attack and bombing of Pearl Harbor. CDR Andrew Hertel, Commanding Officer of USS Texas, aboard his ship at Pearl Harbor had much on his mind that day but made a special effort to join the group in the Lone Star State by Skype.

What was this all about, anyway? On 7 November, GAC had hosted CDR Hertel, Chief of the Boat MMCM(SS) Matt Harris, LTJG Mike Von Bargen (also of Navy football fame) at one of its acclaimed distinguished speaker dinner programs. They were on a recruiting trip through Texas at the time. It should also be noted that CDR Hertel is an accomplished speaker and motivated the 80 council members and guests as he spoke of the dedication of his ship and crew to mission of the United States Navy.

During the course of CDR Hertel's remarks, he told of how USS Texas displayed a set of Longhorns on its bridge when entering and leaving port. When asked if USS Texas had a proper set of longhorns, he indicated that he did and with his arms spread about 3 feet stated that they were about “that long.” “Those are not a proper set of longhorns,” replied Kathy Pillmore. President-Elect of Greater Austin Council. “A real set of Texas longhorns measure between 6 and 7 feet in length. We’ll have to see what we can do to get you a set that more fully represents our great state!”

Ms. Pillmore indeed located appropriate Texas longhorns, seven feet of them, and a plaque commemorating the presentation was mounted on them and the date for the presentation was set for Pearl Harbor Day. Skype was working well and CDR Hertel and the Austin group conversed easily. CDR Hertel commemorated the day of solemnity by reading a passage from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's “Day of Infamy” speech. Members of the Austin group exchanged greetings and conversed with the Skipper. National Director, Mary Virginia Pittman-Waller, relayed the good wishes and support of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who could not be present.

Kathy Pillmore, with the assistance of four outstanding midshipmen from UT NROTC, then made the formal presentation of the longhorns to CDR Hertel on behalf of USS Texas. He seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the Council's gesture and certainly by the spread of the longhorns. Some wondered how the “boat” would be able to mount them on the bridge and store them when not in use and were assured that they would somehow figure that out.

CAPT John Eden, Professor of Naval Science and Commanding Officer of UT NROTC, LT Chris Hoover, Assistant Professor of Naval Science, UT NROTC, and a select detail of submarine option midshipmen physically accepted the longhorns and committed to ensuring their safe passage to Pearl Harbor.

Although the USS Texas has been formally adopted by the Greater Houston Council of the Navy League Council, the Greater Austin Council from its base in the capital of Texas maintains an emotional tie to USS Texas. Austin, Texas lost its namesake ship in 2004 with the decommissioning of USS Austin (LPD-4).

It was a privilege to do this for the Texas,” stated Pillmore. “We respect and honor the men and women of the Navy and especially those serving on any ship named after our state. Texans are a proud lot.” ...

Dedication plaque placed in center of Texas longhorns seven foot spread

CDR Andy Hertel, CO, USS Texas via Skype from Pearl Harbor with LT Chris Hoover, UT NROTC Submarine Warfare Instructor, and Greater Austin Council President- Elect Kathy Pillmore in foreground

Greater Austin Council and UT NROTC representatives at the 7 December presentation.

(front row l-r) National Director Jeanie Coffey (GAC), President-Elect Kathy Pillmore (GAC), National Director Mary Virginia Pittman-Waller (GAC)

(back row l-r) Central Texas Area President Max Miller (GAC), LT Chris Hoover, Officer Candidate (EM2) Andrew Adams, MIDN 1/C Timothy Garrett, MIDN 1/C Andrew Watkins, Vice-President Bruce Byron (GAC), CAPT John Eden CO, UT NROTC; National Director Glenn Looney (GAC)