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The Mission Valley Honor Guard hoists the colors during the song of the flag by the Yamncut Drum.

Char-Koosta News

PABL0 – In the spring of 2022, the USS Montana will officially join the US Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet. At last Thursday’s tribal council meeting, two USS Montana committee members briefed the Flathead Nation governing body and the public on the progress of the USS Montana. USS Montana Committee Chairman Bill Whitsitt and Committee Member Brian Lipscomb brought with them the submarine bell and peace pipe that will be aboard the USS Montana. It had an air of ceremony because it was, after all, a ceremony.

Yamncut Drum

The Yamncut Drum sings a song of honor during USS Montana ceremonies in Tribal Council Halls.

The event opened with a flag song by the Yamncut Drum and the display of colors by the Mission Valley Honor Guard.

“We are giving the peace pipe to the USS Montana as a symbol of peace and protection for the crew of the USS Montana,” Lipscomb said. “We asked Dwight to make the peace pipe.”

Dwight Billedeaux

Dwight Billedeaux explains the elements of the peace pipe he designed for a permanent display on the USS Montana

Artist Pikuni Dwight Billedeaux was commissioned to create a peace pipe that will be displayed permanently on the USS Montana until decommissioned.

“It’s an honor to do this,” Billedeaux said, then explained the meaning of the symbols he placed on it. “I am very proud and honored.

The USS Montana, a 7,800-ton nuclear submarine, is expected to enter full service in May 2022 when it enters service with the U.S. Navy, said Bill Whitsitt, USS Montana committee chair.

“We want to make sure that the people who serve on the USS Montana know the Indian people of this nation,” said Whitsitt, adding that the contribution and blessings of the Flathead Nation have been taken into account. Whitsitt and four Sailors who will be crew members of the USS Montana visited the 2018 Arlee Celebration and were recognized by then Tribal Councilor Dennis Clairmont on behalf of the Flathead Nation.

In February 2019, the Tribal Council passed a resolution proclaiming its support for the “USS Montana Commissioning Committee in its efforts to support commissioning and all who sail aboard it to defend our nation.”

USS Montana Committee Chairman Bill Whitsitt

USS Montana Committee Chairman Bill Whitsitt briefs the Tribal Council on the progress of the state-named nuclear submarine.

Whitsitt exhibited a full-size submarine-sized replica of the bell aboard the first and only other USS MONTANA, a cruiser commissioned in 1908 and decommissioned in 1921. The bell honors the motto of Montana State, Oro y Plata (Gold and Silver). Genuine Montana gold and silver as well as gold and silver dolphin pins worn by submariners are melted into it. It also contains an eagle feather design in recognition of the native peoples of Montana and the country. The eagle feathers are replicas of those in the Flathead Nation Veterans Memorial at the Headquarters complex. Another design element is a grizzly bear and a mountainous interpretation of the Glacier National Park skyline. When in service, it will fly the Montana flag, as well as that of the United States.

Retired U.S. Navy veteran and Mission Valley Honor Guard member Louie Blood ceremoniously rang the bell three times, according to Navy lore.

Louie Blood, retired US Navy veteran

Retired US Navy veteran Louie Blood ceremoniously rings the submarine-sized replica of the ship-sized bell aboard the cruise ship USS Montana.

In an interview after the ceremony, Whitsitt said the $ 2.7 billion USS Montana, christened in September 2020, was moved from the dry dock at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia in early October in the James River. It will undergo sea trials later this month or in December to demonstrate its seaworthiness. Along with its USS Montana nickname is its Navy fleet hull number SSN-794.

“The crew is currently and has undergone intensive training. They have been living and working on the USS Montana for a year, ”said Whitsitt. “The next step is certification, and then it will go into service with the Navy.”

Whitsitt said there are many events planned for the official commissioning of the USS Montana and would like to have Montana tribal representatives at the festivities.

“We would like them to be there live and in person to sing a flag and a song of honor before the official ceremonies,” said Whitsitt. “I want to thank the tribes; their participation is greatly appreciated. I see this as a true continuation of the support and encouragement from the [Flathead Nation] and the other tribes honoring [this effort]. “

USS Montana

The USS Montana is a Virginia-class nuclear submarine similar to this one.


Christened on September 12, 2020, the future USS MONTANA (SSN 794) will be one of the most advanced submarines in the world when it enters service in spring 2022 and will join the US Navy fleet.

The Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, the USS MONTANA will have the most advanced stealth capability. This will enable critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. She will be deadly, capable of protecting aircraft carriers and expeditionary strike groups, as well as hunting and destroying enemy attack and missile submarines and surface ships.

The USS MONTANA will have the ability to navigate with precision in shallower waters to get closer to adversaries. It will be multi-mission, capable of deploying and detecting mines, launching Tomahawk cruise missiles against land targets, and inserting entire platoon-sized Navy SEAL special operations teams into dangerous areas. , while being submerged.

Officially named PCU (for Pre-Commissioning Unit) MONTANA SSN 794 until commissioning, the MONTANA was christened at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, signifying that she was ready for launch.

Completion of construction and jetty-side testing will lead to sea trials in 2021-2022, with Navy acceptance and commissioning likely later in spring 2022.

Crew members are standing 24/7 watching the engineering department because of the nuclear power plant being energized. And each of the more than 130 sailors assigned to MONTANA undergo intense training in areas ranging from the “piloting” of the advanced warship to weapons systems, including the operation and maintenance of the many other systems essential to maintenance. combat capability and crew. of MONTANA “on stage, invisible” for long periods.

After commissioning, the USS MONTANA is expected to serve our country with a range of missions around the world for more than three decades.

For her entire life of service, the USS MONTANA will have the support and prayers of all Montanais.


The first and only USS Montana to service was an armored cruiser (AC 13) commissioned with the US Navy fleet in 1908. It served with distinction during and beyond World War I and was decommissioned in 1921.

Two battleships (BB 51 and BB 67) which were to be called Montana were canceled in 1922 and 1943 respectively. Construction of the BB 51 had started and it was 27% complete when work on it was halted. The BB 67 was to be the lead ship of a new class of battleships, the cancellation of which came before construction began on Montana. This resulted in Montana being the only state that did not have a battleship named for it.