Stapleton flag presentation

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, center, presents Rear Adm. Michael Holland, right, and Bill Whitsitt, left, of the U.S.S. Montana Committee, with a flag that flew over the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon at the secretary of state's office.

Thom Bridge, thom.bridge@helenair.com

Montana’s first Navy Week came to Helena Tuesday with Great Falls native Rear Adm. Michael Holland receiving flags from Secretary of State Cory Stapleton commemorating construction of the U.S.S. Montana submarine.

Each year the Navy selects 15 inland locations for Navy Week, similar to Fleet Week for coastal states, when the Navy holds public events and talks about its role in national defense. Montana’s first Navy Week includes events in Helena, Billings and Bozeman.

“It’s really about building that understanding with the public about what the Navy is out there doing,” Holland said.

The No. 1 mission of the Navy and across all the military branches is “strategic deterrence” against aggression to “keep things peaceful so you can all rest assured at night,” he added.

Helena events included a visit to the YMCA and city council on Monday, and a presentation to the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce and a meeting with Stapleton Tuesday at the Capitol. The Helena Rotary hosts a Navy speaker Wednesday at noon.

Montana events will continue through the weekend in Billings.

Holland and members of the U.S.S. Montana Committee met with Stapleton, himself a Navy veteran, to receive a pair of flags that flew above the state Capitol. The submarine is under construction with an anticipated commission date of 2020. One flag will fly over the construction site and the other will be presented to the future skipper.

Holland and Stapleton, both Great Falls natives, happened to be stationed for a time at the same base in Rhode Island. Stapleton said that as a veteran, he is always curious to hear about how the Navy is dealing with evolving threats, and asking why it had taken so long for Montana to get its first Navy Week.

“It’s not the best kept secret anymore, but so many people who serve in the military come to Montana,” Stapleton told Holland and other members of the Navy in attendance. “We have one of the highest veteran populations and it’s easy to understand why with the lifestyle and beauty, and everyone is so proud to see people in uniform.”

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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