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The USS Oklahoma Pre-commissioning unit stands on the football field in Boone Pickens Stadium.

OSU welcomes Navy delegation to honor USS Oklahoma, discuss naval pathways for students

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

The name of the USS Oklahoma — a ship that was first commissioned in 1916 and served until it capsized following the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor — lives on.

In honor of the enduring legacy of the USS Oklahoma and the 429 men who went down with the ship, construction commenced on a new submarine bearing the same name in 2019 with an anticipated delivery in the mid-2020s. 

The USS Oklahoma pre-commissioning command unit visited Oklahoma this week as part of the Navy Community Outreach program’s namesake visits and for the Pearl Harbor Commemoration Ceremony in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma State University welcomed U.S. Navy Cmdr. Aaron Stutzman and a delegation to campus on Wednesday — the eve of the 82nd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941 — to discuss the commissioning of the USS Oklahoma submarine and facilitate conversation surrounding workforce development collaboration. 

The Virginia-class submarine is the second ship named Oklahoma and the first ship to be named after the 46th state since the battleship was lost. As part of the namesake visits, the command comes to Oklahoma annually as an ongoing effort to establish a connection with landlocked states like Oklahoma, illustrating the potential contributions of the Navy and the opportunities it presents.

“It's been phenomenal to have the opportunity to be here, but to develop the relationships that we can grow in the future — that's really what our trip was about — developing those relationships to grow,” Stutzman said.  

Most interactions between naval ships and colleges are through ROTC programs, Stutzman said. However, another route for college students is the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program — which is for those interested in engineering to join the Navy as an officer in the Nuclear Propulsion Program while enrolled in a full-time college degree program.   

“One of our missions is to educate the workforce of the future, whether for industry or government,” said Dr. Jamey Jacob, Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education executive director. “Doing this requires that we understand the needs of future jobs, both hard and soft skills. The partnership allows us to ensure our students are meeting the needs of the USS Oklahoma. Providing our students with real-world and relevant problems for them to solve is mutually beneficial.”    

Originally estimated to take 60-75 months, the construction timeline for the 377-foot submarine is now expected to extend to 80-90 months. This adjustment is attributed to challenges arising from the loss of the industrial personnel base. This presents a concern that the Navy is actively seeking to correct by establishing connections that can produce skilled personnel to rebuild.

“There are many challenges the modern Navy faces in general, and the USS Oklahoma in particular. Having the commander provide challenges that we and other Innovation Foundation institutes such as [the Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute] help solve is part of our mission,” Jacob said. “Autonomy, artificial intelligence, drones, ergonomics, training and the well-being of sailors are among the issues for which we can offer solutions and guidance. This expands the scope to leverage our expertise, aligning with OSU's land-grant mission.”   

OSU prioritizes providing hands-on learning experiences integral to the We Are Land-Grant strategy, addressing workforce and economic development requirements. Whether through collaborations with university institutes or the introduction of new programs, Elizabeth Pollard — CEO of The Innovation Foundation at OSU — emphasized OSU as a pillar for enhancing the state's capabilities through collaboration.   

The delegation toured the Advanced Technology Research Center, state-of-the-art Wave Tank and the ENDEAVOR lab within the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. These facilities offer engineering and technical students practical, hands-on experience with actual tools, enhancing their preparation for real-world roles as engineers, scientists and technicians.  

“Oklahoma has a rich history, not just the state, but the battleship and now the submarine tying back to that pride that comes with military service and serving our country. That doesn't have to be just military. That's the industrial base, the workforce, that provides that support to our Navy, to our nation — but we have to build those relationships as well,” Stutzman said.  

Even for those who choose not to enlist in the military, avenues exist to contribute to the nation’s defense through engineering positions. Stutzman said online websites link someone to the entire logistical supply chain that builds a submarine, allowing them to see how they can apply what they learned to make a meaningful impact in their chosen career path. 

“It was a great honor to have the delegation,” Jacob said. “Honoring the 429 sailors on the battleship Oklahoma that lost their lives in the attack at Pearl Harbor, it was moving to meet with the team that will bring the USS Oklahoma to life. Just as they are here to serve the country, we are here to help them in their mission.”  

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