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Ricky Zeller

Ricky Zeller is a contributing writer for packers.com. He has covered the NFL for several publications.

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Packers' 'G' sails the seven seas

Posted Apr 14, 2012


The Packers’ white “G” on a green oval was the creation of Dad Braisher in 1961, when the equipment manager was directed by Vince Lombardi to design a helmet logo. That assignment not only produced one of the most recognizable NFL logos, it also created the official symbol of a U.S. Navy ship.

As the official badge of the warship USS Green Bay, the helmet “G” is emblazoned most everywhere. It can be found on the doors of each wardroom, etched on all four of the vessel’s gray Sea Knight helicopters and stitched on the side of the caps that each officer wears. The emblem, which is also featured in the City of Green Bay’s Crest, is even painted on the anchor.

The ship’s kinship with the Packers runs deeper. The passageways have street signs named after those in Green Bay, including Lombardi Ave., Reggie White Way, Brett Favre Pass, Packerland Ave. and Bart Starr Dr. Deeper inside, there’s a Lambeau Field 50th anniversary team-autographed football, as well as Super Bowl XXXI and XLV autographed programs.

There are framed and autographed jerseys on the walls and after the victory, a Super Bowl XLV flag flapped in the breeze above the Green Bay Fire Dept. banner on the forward mast, autographed by President & CEO Mark Murphy: “To The USS Green Bay Crew, Go Pack Go!”

No one appreciates the Packers’ trappings more than Ensign Tim Mahoney, a Green Bay native who serves as one of the two main propulsion division officers. Among the most technologically-advanced ships in the Navy, the USS Green Bay was christened in July of 2006 and commissioned in January of ’09. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in ’10, Mahoney didn’t leave it to chance to find a home on the ship named after his hometown, which departed on its maiden voyage in February of ’11.

“I definitely had to wheel and deal my way on the ship,” said Mahoney, who followed his sister, Molly, into the Naval Academy. “There was one spot, and I was 39th in selection. I talked to everyone ahead of me, and one guy was on the fence. We came up with an arrangement. It’s not uncommon, it’s frowned upon, but I figured it was worth it in the grand scheme of things. It cost me a couple hundred dollars.”

The USS Green Bay is a San Antonio Class landing platform dock ship. In civilian terms, the ship is designed primarily to logistically transport Marines to a war zone. It can store and launch amphibious assault vehicles and air-cushioned landing craft, has a flight deck with a hangar, can sustain up to 1,000 fully-equipped Marines and sailors at sea and has the space for trucks, Humvees and tanks.

A huge fan who counts Robert Brooks as his favorite player because of the former wide receiver’s work ethic, Mahoney immediately took on the role as ship mascot. It’s an interesting responsibility. Every ship has a mascot and it’s typically a punishment for a junior officer, something meant to be entertaining often when pulling up next to another ship. Given his Packers roots, Mahoney chose to embrace the duty.

“For our ship, it’s a fun atmosphere. Our captain wanted me to wear a cheesehead, but I decided to make it an actual costume,” he said. “I got some shoulder pads, a painted mask and found a championship belt. When we left for deployment and were lined up on the deck, a Marine Corps colonel gave me the belt sign on the pier.”

Including Murphy, the Packers sent a handful of team officials to the USS Green Bay’s commissioning in 2009, which was held in Long Beach, Calif. A group of students from Lombardi Middle School in Green Bay also attended.

“It was really impressive,” Murphy said. “Our organization and the City of Green Bay have a strong relationship with the military. To have the ship carry the Packers logo is a source of pride.”

The students continue to keep in touch with the sailors via online teleconferencing, and Mahoney gives presentations at the school whenever he returns to Green Bay. While at sea on their initial deployment, over 700 sailors and Marines took part in local distance races by running the same length on the deck.

The USS Green Bay returned from its maiden voyage in late September of 2011, after housing over 700 troops from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit as part of the Navy’s three-ship Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.

At sea for seven months, Marines from the USS Green Bay operated in more than 10 countries throughout the Western Pacific and Middle East. The Boxer Group provided humanitarian aid, supported overseas operations and combatted piracy.

“Being on the ship has been a tremendous experience,” said Mahoney, who has attended at least 15 games at Lambeau Field. “I saw the overwhelming sacrifices that people make on this ship. I watched sailors say goodbye to their families then go out to sea for seven months and meet their kids for the first time. It was a great experience to see.”

With the Packers’ “G” so prominent, the ship also helped convert a few new fans.

“The first captain of the ship (Commander Joseph R. Olson) was from Wisconsin, so he made sure Packers games were being projected in the hangar bay,” said Mahoney. “Our last commanding officer wasn’t from Wisconsin, but he liked seeing them. For the most part, everyone on the ship became a Packers fan a little more.”

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