Commander Sam Geiger, commander of the USS Toledo submarine.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Cmdr. Sam Geiger is proud of the work his crew aboard the USS Toledo did during a seven-month deployment last year that included duties in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, and Mediterranean Sea.
But what exactly the submarine was doing in those distant waters, he’s not allowed to say. It’s a national-security secret, the boat’s commanding officer told The Blade’s editorial board Wednesday.
“Ninety-five percent of what we do is classified. I can’t tell the stories I’d really love to tell,” Commander Geiger said, beyond describing the Toledo’s mission as being “full of adventure, full of risk,” and focused on “surveillance and reconnaissance.”
But the Toledo and its crew are well-regarded within the submarine fleet, the captain said. In 2012, it received the Battle Efficiency Award, which recognized it as the best-rated submarine in its seven-boat squadron, he said.
“We are making a huge contribution to the security of this country, and my guys are doing it great. ... The Toledo name has a great reputation in the submarine force because of the work our guys do, and the people ought to be proud of that.”
Commander Geiger is leading a seven-man “command visit” from the USS Toledo, now dry-docked at its Groton, Conn., home port for maintenance and upgrades, to its namesake city that began Tuesday evening and continues through Saturday morning. Today’s events include an assembly and luncheon with students at the Toledo Technology Academy and a tour and ceremonies at Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens.
The 140 officers and enlisted personnel aboard the submarine have rigorous lives, with duty schedules of six hours on and 12 hours off while underway, the Toledo’s captain said.
The sailors’ only communication with the outside world is text-only email, he said, and that access can be suspended for months at a time when the sub is running silently — submerged or otherwise — to conduct its surveillance mission.
“It’s a tough living — we ask a lot of our guys,” Commander Geiger said. “The vast majority of our crew is between ages 18 and 26. They just do amazing things, and work incredibly hard.”
Commissioned in 1995, the Toledo is roughly halfway through its expected 35 to 40-year service life, the captain said. Typical leave breaks between periods of deployment and training last only a couple of months, he said, but during the heavy maintenance that occurs every five years, sailors get a little more time with their families.
But the rigors of submarine service affect those families too, Commander Geiger said, because when the sailors are at sea, their spouses at home have to cope without their support.
While women now serve aboard submarines, he noted, they are assigned only to the larger ballistic-missile or guided-missile subs; the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines are men-only because of insufficient space for gender-specific accommodations like showers and toilets.
Commander Geiger said that during his delegation’s first full day in Toledo, it was very warmly received, and he expects that to continue.
“None of us have been to Toledo, or even Ohio, before,” the captain said. “People have been just amazingly friendly. ... This is something today that will stay with these guys for the rest of their careers.”
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.