COLUMBIA — Three months into his tenure as captain of the submarine USS Columbia, Commander Dennis Klein paid a visit to the city of his boat's namesake.
“We periodically come back to the cities that sponsor us,” Klein said. "This is my first visit to Columbia as commander." Klein added that Columbia, Ill., and Columbia, S.C., are also namesake cities of the submarine.
Klein has been in foreign waters all over the globe. He served in a fleet during Operation Iraqi Freedom and participated in military exercises off the coast of South Korea. As part of his visit during MU Veterans Week, Klein took a tour of the MU Veterans Center. The center is one of four full-service, campus-based veterans centers in the country, said Carol Fleisher, director of the MU Veterans Center.
During the tour, Klein explained the functions of the high-technology submarine he commands. The USS Columbia, which has been in commission since 1994, is a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine designed for fast, stealth attacks, Klein said. The submarine has many specific capabilities. Klein described the USS Columbia as “a platform that can do many missions.”
Klein said the submarine is used for special operations missions with Navy SEALs and Tomahawk missile strikes.
Fleisher told Klein about the special services MU provides for veterans on campus.
“We have the center because we want to see them succeed academically and in their transition from military to civilian life,” she said.
Tony Olson, a veteran and current MU student who was present for Klein’s visit, echoed Fleisher’s belief in the program.
“This organization helps veterans reintegrate back into society,” he said.
Olson, a Virginia native, said he was drawn to MU because of the Veterans Center services. The center, which opened its doors in 2008, has a staff of all prior active duty veterans, Fleisher said.
In addition to his Veterans Center tour, Klein met with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Mayor Bob McDavid and visited the College of Engineering.