SAN ILDEFONSO PUEBLO – USS Santa Fe Submarine Culinary Specialist Third Class Joseph Aispuro may be off-duty but he still started his Saturday at 7 a.m. and in a typical setting – the kitchen.
This kitchen, however, is not located in a submarine but in the home of Deborah and Elmer Torres. Aispuro, along with members of the Torres’ family, prepared a special Feast Day meal for some honored guests. These guests included Aispuro, seven other crew members from the USS Santa Fe Submarine, and Commander Timothy Poe.
The USS Santa Fe Committee paid for the eight members of the submarine’s crew to travel to their vessel’s namesake. The week-long trip began Tuesday and has featured planting flags at the Santa Fe National Cemetery and volunteering at Kitchen Angels, a nonprofit that delivers meals to homebound indivdiduals. The crew also attended a baseball game in Santa Fe
Saturday, members of the submarine crew, as well as representatives from the USS Santa Fe and USS New Mexico committees gathered at the Torres’ home in the San Ildefonso Pueblo to enjoy a Feast Day meal, traditional Pueblo dances, and good company.
This visit is a milestone for the state, USS New Mexico Committee Chairman Dick Brown said. “This is the largest submarine crew visit in New Mexico’s history.”
Although all submarines are named after U.S. cities or states, only a few have a committee that supports them. “So not every submarine has something like this,” he said.
As a member of the USS Santa Fe Committee, Deborah Torres invited the crew members to her home to expose the group to Native American culture. She added most of the crew has never set foot in New Mexico or heard of a Pueblo. In wasn’t just to expose the group to a different culture but also to give them a blessing for their six-month deployment, which will begin in July.
One participant in Saturday’s festivities had experienced New Mexico and Pueblo culture. Poe attended another Feast Day celebration along with Chief of the Boat Juan Gonzalez in the Torres’ home in March.
Poe said his last visit was so important to him that he really wanted to return with some of his crew. Out of the 120 people who serve on the USS Santa Fe it was tough to pick eight, he said.
Having ties to the city that is submarine’s namesake is important, Poe said, because “I think it gives them a sense of purpose and pride in what they do.”
To get the servicemen out to New Mexico, the USS Santa Fe Committee held fundraisers, raffles and even “twisted a few arms,” USS Santa Fe Committee Chairman Rick Carver said. The committee paid the men’s airfare, which cost more than $9,000 to fly them from their station in Hawaii to New Mexico.
But it was worth every penny, according to the committee members. “It is important to support the active military,” Carver said. “They will go back to Hawaii with great stories to tell.”
Committee Member Cliff Wood added while on active duty, “It gets lonely out there.” So it is good for the servicemen to know they have support.
Several crew members expressed their appreciation.
“It is been great,” Elias Ortiz said. “The food and the culture are very rich.” He added that “the best thing has been the hospitality and the food.” He joked that people were always urging them to eat.
Fireman Nigel Koorie added, “Everybody has been really nice and welcoming with open arms.” The hospitality, food and art were among his highlights for the trip.
The occasion was not just marked by excellent home-made food, which included Deborah Torres’ famous green chile enchiladas, but also a prayer by Elmer Torres, a former governor of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Remarking on being able to host the USS Santa Fe again, he said, “Today is another special day for us.”
The Pojoaque Pueblo’s Red Turtle dance group performed a series of dances at Saturday’s gathering.