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USS Colorado Continues Submarine Battle Flag Tradition
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alfred Coffield
January 27, 2021

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Colorado (SSN 788), homeported at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, participated in a unique submarine tradition during its maiden deployment in 2019.

The crew of Colorado created a submarine battle flag by sewing together patches that highlighted group accomplishments during the deployment.

Capt. Jason Geddes, then commanding officer of Colorado, was given a submarine battle flag before the maiden deployment by Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic.

An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Colorado (SSN 788) by U.S. Navy Stan Bailey.
 An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Colorado (SSN 788) by U.S. Navy Stan Bailey.

“I was given the Colorado battle flag in August of 2019 in Norfolk,” Geddes said. “It was bare, with the exception of a number ‘1’ in the center, which signifies Colorado’s first deployment. I took the flag back with me to Groton and showed the crew during an all hands on the pier and challenged them to fill it up.”

The tradition of submarine battle flags began largely during World War II as U.S. submarines became heavily involved in combat in the Pacific Ocean against Japanese forces. The flags were used to keep an unofficial record of the number of ships sank. Today, they serve as onboard records of success to motivate the crew while deployed.

“Like many naval traditions, battle flags started as a way to record accomplishments and other noteworthy actions.” Geddes said. “The flag is also significant because it shows future crews of the Colorado what can be accomplished with hard work, and serves as a historical reminder of Colorado’s maiden deployment.”

Fire Control Technician 1st Class (SS) Shaun Kwasniewski, assigned to Colorado, was tasked with creating a concept for the battle flag.

“We, as a crew, were asked to fill the flag with the next six months of success,” Kwasniewski said. “I was asked to come up with patches and ways to use resources on the boat to make this happen. We don’t have shops on the boat to buy sewing kits, so it took some ingenuity.”

On February 20, 2020, Colorado returned home from its maiden deployment and the crew did not let their commanding officer down.

USS Colorado (SSN 788) battle flag created by the crew through sewing patches together that highlight group accomplishments during deployment aboard the boat in Groton, Connecticut on May 14, 2020. The tradition of submarine battle flags began largely during World War II as U.S. submarines became heavily involved in combat in the Pacific Ocean against Japanese forces. The flags were used to keep an unofficial record of the number of ships sank during the war, but today they serve as onboard records of success to motivate the crew while deployed. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. James Geddes)
USS Colorado (SSN 788) battle flag created by the crew through sewing patches together that highlight group accomplishments during deployment aboard the boat in Groton, Connecticut on May 14, 2020. The tradition of submarine battle flags began largely during World War II as U.S. submarines became heavily involved in combat in the Pacific Ocean against Japanese forces. The flags were used to keep an unofficial record of the number of ships sank during the war, but today they serve as onboard records of success to motivate the crew while deployed. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. James Geddes)

Upon her return, Colorado’s battle flag consisted of:

  • Patches that represent three port visits
  • 20 silver dolphin and five gold dolphin patches to represent the Sailors who earned their Submarine Warfare insignia during deployment
  • A crew designed deployment patch with three watch section mascots
  • The number “1” for the first deployment for the ship
  • A patch from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) that represents Colorado’s support to her
  • 18 Colorado insignia patches that signifies significant mission accomplishments
  • Rank insignia patches for Sailors who advanced during deployment.

Kwasniewski is also a ankowner, serving as a member of the crew when the boat was placed in commission.

“I’m honored to be a part of the boat’s history and crew,” Kwasniewski said. “I’ve been here since the sub was in boxes; I helped build the boat, went on its maiden deployment and created the battle flag. These pieces of history will be remembered long after I’ve left the boat.”

Colorado was commissioned in March 2018 as the 15th Virginia-class fast-attack submarine to join the fleet. It is the fifth Virginia-class Block III submarine and the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with a name honoring the state of Colorado.

Virginia-class submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities-sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

They are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces support; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions.

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