It is my pleasure to address you in my first Enterprise Watch as your Submarine Force commander. It is great to be back in Norfolk and again close to the Force. I would like to give my most sincere congratulations to VADM Chuck Munns, who retired after more than 33 years of loyal dedicated service to our Navy and our nation. He was an inspired leader of our Submarine Force. On behalf of the entire Submarine Force, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you and wish Admiral and Mrs. Munns, “Fair winds and following seas.”
What I’m most proud about is our people and our ships. We continue to operate as a global force, flowing units around the world as needed to serve individually or in concert with U.S. forces and our coalition partners. Our forward deployed SSNs continue to produce information that is useful in the long war and maritime security operations and our SSBNs patrol quietly in a survivable, always-ready posture.
As your commander, I will initially focus my attention on three top priorities.
First is operational excellence. We need to refocus attention on the basics of seamanship, navigation, and safe day-to-day operations. Our standards are necessarily high and expectations are equally high. It is a constant challenge to meet those expectations but meet them we must.
Second is the professional development of our Submarine Force personnel. I recognize that every member of our force, active duty, reservist, and civilian together with their family members is vital to our success. I take my responsibility to train and develop Submarine Force leaders seriously and will devote much of my energy to that task. Our retention is currently high and attrition is low but I will seek continued improvement. Quality of life and pride in doing an important job well are keys to our overall success.
Finally, we must maintain our primacy by continuing to modernize our submarines with technology and by building new ships to replace those reaching the end of their useful lives. Our products are stealth, persistence, and deterrence and they are in great demand by our combatant commanders. We will strive to deliver those capabilities in a cost effective manner.
In February, RADM Walsh and I completed a hard-hitting and productive meeting with the Submarine Force group and afloat major commanders that featured very frank and open discussions. Our intent was to focus on the fundamentals of operational excellence and address the barriers at the senior leadership level. We acknowledge that our commanding officers bear the responsibility to operate their ships safely and effectively.
The Undersea Enterprise continues to mature, align, and improve productivity. Your hard work identifying issues and innovative solutions are saving millions of dollars and recovering days of submarine operational availability. My three priorities will continue to guide the activity of the Enterprise through 2007.
Today, as we celebrate 107 years of operational excellence of our United States Submarine Force, we can reflect on one of our heroes, VADM Charles A. Lockwood who commanded our Pacific Submarine Forces during WWII. After the war, he reflected on the remarkable accomplishments of the submariners of that day. He said, “They were no supermen, nor were they endowed with any supernatural qualities of heroism. They were merely top-notch American lads, well trained, well treated, well armed, and provided with superb ships.” It’s no different today. Our people are truly top-notch. My job is to ensure they are well trained, well treated, and equipped with the best submarines in the world.
Each of you represents a vital part of a chain of activity that results in unique undersea warfare capability for the nation. The dolphins you wear represent not only your professionalism but also that of the entire Submarine Force—past, present, and future.
Again remember our rich history and what Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said about our WWII brothers in arms, “We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the line against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds”. Keep up the good work in your respective part of the Enterprise! Smooth sailing, and good hunting.