Coming to Cam Ranh Military Port in Khanh Hoa province at the end of the year and seeing the so-called "Ocean Black Hole" submarine half-submerged and half-floating with a flying red flag with a yellow star on its ridge, I was filled with pride and a feeling of peace when spring was about to knock on the door.

Troops of Brigade 189 making Chung cakes to welcome the traditional lunar New Year

Taking me on a tour of the unit, Commander Dao Van Thang, Political Chief of Brigade 189 said that when returning to the port, every on-duty sailor has to work very seriously. During the lunar New Year (Tet), everyone wants to be reunited with their families, but troops of Brigade 189 have to stay in the unit to perform the guard duty and be ready to carry out missions as requested.

- I asked Thang, “How many times have you celebrated Tet at your unit?”

- “Since I have held commanding positions at different levels, I have celebrated the lunar New Year many times at the unit, and so do I this year,” Commander Dao Van Thang replied.   

Submariners welcome the lunar New Year like troops of other forces in the Vietnam People’s Army. The only difference is that they have to both perform guard duty and conduct specialized training during Tet, so they are very busy.

In addition to duty and training time, when coming ashore, submarine crew-members are busy putting their barracks in order, decorating the altar and the  playground, making wall newspapers, making "banh chung" (square glutinous rice cake) and "banh tet" (cylindrical glutinous rice cake), and practicing for artistic performances. On the occasion of the New Year of the Tiger in 2022, while witnessing submarine sailors preparing the altar, I saw a can of clean water placed solemnly on the altar with the words "Water from the ocean" on it. Lieutenant Commander Nguyen Tien Thanh, Deputy Head of the Armament Section of Ship 184-Hai Phong explained, “We call this an offering of the sea. Seawater is taken by submarine crew-members at the deepest point that the five ships have reached, through a valve system.” As spring starts, members of the crew will wish each other all the best, happiness, success and drink two glasses of the sea water with the thinking that “all submarines dive and float equally." It means that the submarine performs two stages of diving and emerging safely.

According to Commander Nguyen Duc Tuong, Political Commissar of Brigade 189, on the New Year’s Eve, submarine crew-members simultaneously blow horns to welcome the New Year like a promise to be determined to successfully complete assigned tasks. Due to the narrow space in submarines, it is impossible for everyone to gather in the central compartment, so the brigade’s leaders go down to each submarine to extend New Year greetings to troops on duty in compartments through the ship's communication system. Each sailor responds to the greetings by strictly observing the duty and being ready to undertake missions.

Due to the specificity of their mission, submarine troops receive special attention from the Party, State, Central Military Commission, and Ministry of National Defense. Thanks to this, submarine troops’ life has been gradually improved.

According to Commander Dao Van Thang, officers and non-commissioned officers of the unit consider the ship and unit their home. Up to now, more than 80% of officers and non-commissioned officers of the brigade have their own families in the locality where their unit is stationed. It is also the basis for the submarine crew-members to be more secure to perform all assigned tasks and ready to fight to firmly protect the national sovereignty over sacred sea and islands in any situation. 

Written by Duy Hien

Translated by Tran Hoai