South Amboy native serves aboard nuclear submarine in Guam

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SOUTH AMBOY — A 1995 Sayreville War Memorial High School graduate and South Amboy native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a crew working aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarines.

Cmdr. Steven Tarr serves in Guam as part of the Navy’s forward-deployed force. He is the commanding officer of a Los Angeles class submarine, the USS Topeka. He is responsible for the performance, safety and well-being of 150 crew members, according to information provided by Lt. Cmdr. Gus T. Hein of the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

“I enjoy helping sailors be better at what they do and grow as individuals,” Tarr said in the statement. “It’s very satisfying interacting with the sailors on a daily basis. It’s all about the people.”

With a crew of 130, the submarine is 360 feet long and weighs approximately 6,900 tons. A nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the submarine through the water at nearly 30 mph, according to Hein.

Attack submarines are designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; strike targets ashore with cruise missiles; carry and deliver Navy SEALs; carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare, according to Hein. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.

“Guam sailors are located at our nation’s most strategically important forward-deployed submarine base, and the missions they conduct at the tip of the spear are incredible,” said Capt. David Schappert, commander of Submarine Squadron 15. “They are constantly challenged and continually rise to meet and exceed expectations. Guam is the place to be for submariners, and we have the ‘Go Guam!’ initiative to showcase all the great things we do out here.”

“I think Guam is unique,” Tarr said. “There are opportunities and challenges to being stationed out here. The island is beautiful, and the people are very friendly. It’s a wonderful and distinct cultural and ethnic experience.”

Challenging submarine living conditions actually build strong fellowship among the crew, Tarr explained. The crews are highly motivated and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.

“I like being a part of something greater than myself,” Tarr added. “I take my responsibility very seriously. My family has a long history of service. My wife’s side was mostly Army, and my father and grandfather were both in the Navy.”

According to Navy officials, because of the demanding environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation. Submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain and repair every system or piece of equipment on board.

Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the ship works and how to respond in emergencies to become “qualified in submarines” and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniform.

“These sailors continue to impress me with the level of effort and expertise they put into successfully completing their mission day-in and day-out,” said Rear Adm. Frederick Roegge, commander of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in the statement. “Their actions and dedication to service enable the Submarine Force to excel in the undersea domain.”