On a weekday afternoon Dick Brown, Chairman of the USS New Mexico Committee of the Navy League is giving a presentation about the nuclear-powered submarine to an audience at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces.
Brown gives these updates to people all over the state to raise awareness and funds for the crew of the USS New Mexico.
“We do things for the crew that the Navy cannot do. One of those things is that we bring crew members to New Mexico so that they understand the state a little bit better. They learn about the geography, the history, and the culture. We usually have about five or six sailors about twice a year,” says Brown.
According to Brown, the crew has learned much about New Mexico and the submarine also has a southwest decor throughout the ship that is hard to miss.
“There are pictures of Carlsbad Caverns, The Balloon Fiesta, and White Sands. The bunk curtains have a Southwest-Native American design, including the pilot, and co-pilot chairs in the diving station,” says Brown.
Another part of the USS New Mexico that shares something in common with the state is the galley, or kitchen. It is named after La Posta de Mesilla, a popular Southern New Mexico restaurant housed in a centuries-old adobe building in the town of Mesilla.
Navy Captain Mark Prokopius, a former commander of the USS New Mexico shares the story about a contest that led to the naming of the submarine’s galley.
“When we decided that we were going to name our galley we put it up to the crew and there were several restaurants that were in the running to be named,” says Capt. Prokopius.
Tom Hutchinson owns and operates La Posta de Mesilla with his wife Jerean. He is a former Navy Captain and aviator and actually worked with submarines during his time in the Navy.
“They sent several of their Mess specialists down here and trained with us for two to three days, took all that information after visiting all of the establishments back to Virginia, visited with the Skipper and the final vote and tally was that they would name their galley after La Posta de Mesilla,” says Hutchinson.
The crew decided to name it La Posta Abajo del Mar (La Posta under the sea). Captain Prokopius says that restaurant in Mesilla really represented what the crew was looking for.
“When I sold this to the crew and told them about La Posta being a family-owned, Tom Hutchinson being a former Navy captain, and a family oriented restaurant; It really seemed like a perfect fit,” says Capt. Prokopius.
After the contest ended the crew's culinary specialists were sent to the restaurant to learn recipes. Hutchinson and his employees gave the crew members a firm understanding of the restaurant’s cuisine.
“When they come out they typically spend a couple days with us. We’ll take them out to the farms in and around Mesilla where we grow a lot of our produce. We let them meet our farmers, and let them see our process. We bring them in our kitchen our ladies spend hours with them, describing and practicing our recipes, so when they leave here they are pretty versed in producing good Southern New Mexico-Mexican food,” says Hutchinson.
Hutchinson says that it is always great to have the crew members of the submarine stop in to the restaurant when they can.
“To have them come and see us, and to spend a few days is a real honor and privilege for my staff,” says Hutchinson.
In La Posta de Mesilla there is a model of the submarine and in the gift shop there are USS New Mexico items and accessories that are available for purchase with all of the proceeds going to help support the crew aboard the submarine.