USS South Dakota Submarine Crew Visit Namesake State for the First Time

MITCHELL, S.D. — While the weather-themed murals outside of the world’s only Corn Palace are still being installed for the 2017-2018 season, officials have already announced the theme of the next set of murals that will go up in 2019.

The theme will be military.

It’s been more than 100 years since the corn cob portraits honored the armed services.

To celebrate the announcement Wednesday, crew members of the newly-christened USS South Dakota spent the day in Mitchell.

“So when I thought Corn Palace, I thought more of a corn maze,” said 1st Class Petty Officer Jeffrey Langley. “I did not expect it to be this glamorous. I was like, “Wow this is amazing!”

For many of the crew of the USS South Dakota Submarine, it’s their first visit to the real South Dakota.

“Absolutely beautiful, I think my favorite part is how different the geography is,” said 2nd Class Petty Officer Nicholas Paul Wilbratte

The crew is here to celebrate the unveiling of the corn palace’s new military theme and to get to know the state that bears the name of their new sub.

“It’s always nice to be a part of history,” said Langley. “So actually getting to South Dakota getting to meet the locals and all that’s its really nice I really feel like I’m more attached to the name South Dakota.:

Only two of the sailors among the sub’s 130-person crew are from South Dakota.

So while the crew’s visit here gives them a chance to learn about the state’s history and tradition, it also offers South Dakotans an opportunity to learn about the new ship named after them.

“It’s going to be a vessel that’s going to be around for 30 years. It’s going to be a long term relationship. And it’s really important for the people in the heartland to understand that they have a connection with the coast and they have a connection with the sailors that sail in these vessels,” said Debra Bodenstedt, chairwoman of the USS South Dakota Commissioning Committee.

The USS South Dakota submarine was christened October 14 in Groten, Connecticut.

It is still under construction, and will likely join the U.S. Naval fleet next year.