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The “Heritage Guardian Award” given to the USS Montana Committee



Montana – Due to the efforts of the USS Montana Committee, the attack submarine and its crew already established a strong bond with the state of its namesake before it was officially commissioned into the U.S. Navy fleet last year.

“We went through and really put Montana into that little vessel out in the middle of the ocean – which seems kind of odd,” said Brian Lipscomb, the committee’s vice chair. “But one thing about Montanans, of course, is our loyalty to us as a country, to protecting our shores in our waters. And so for the sailors to appreciate that, even though we’re a long ways from the ocean, we really appreciate what they’re doing and want to support them – not only through the time of their service, but even beyond that.”

At a gathering of government officials and community people on Thursday, the Montana Historical Society presented the committee with its “Heritage Guardian Award.”

The Brothers Drum Group’s drumming and singing marked the event’s beginning and conclusion.

“I look around the room, and this is representative of the breadth and the depth of Montana’s great culture and heritage, from our indigenous populations to our military,” said Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras.

The award highlights the efforts made by the committee to provide the USS Montana “a sense of place, history, and culture reflective of the Treasure State’s heritage and values”. Over the past few years, they have partnered with the Navy to incorporate Montana imagery on board, brought the boat’s crew members to visit Montana, and toured the bell across the state prior to the commissioning event.

“When I saw what the committee did for the heritage of Montana by putting the stuff on the boat itself – like the murals and all that stuff – I just thought that it was exciting that the committee was holding up the heritage of Montana, past and present,” said Roger Knoell, the past commander of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., Montana Base.

Bill Whitsitt’s group was the one that Knoell suggested get the honor. “When I received the email, I couldn’t wait to get on the phone to Bill Whitsitt, let him know, ‘Hey, we got it!’” he said.

Along with acting as vice chair, Lipscomb spearheaded efforts to include Montana tribe members in committee operations. He claims that everyone involved found the process to be worthwhile.

“You never endeavor to do something that is viewed as an historical event – that’s not why we as committee members did this,” he said. “But as we went through it and experienced the commissioning and the commissioning ceremony and everything that went into it and the building of that relationship, it felt historical to us. So the fact that the Montana Historical Society has recognized that is an honor and is humbling.”

The committee’s work is far from finished. According to Lipscomb, they intend to keep working on the USS Montana for the duration of its expected 30-year service life. The group is also preparing for a potential documentary that might advance in the upcoming year.

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