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“Our people are the cornerstone of our Force. Today’s submariners make up a small portion of our Navy— approximately seven percent of our Navy’s personnel operating about 24 percent of our combat ships—and they are out front around the globe every day providing for our national security. Our Sailors are talented, motivated, and have chosen to serve their nation.”

VADM Jay Donnelly, USN, Commander Submarine Force

This summer we mourned the death of retired RADM Eugene Fluckey, recipient of the Medal of Honor and a true naval hero. One of the most aggressive and successful submarine skippers of World War II, he was credited with sinking more than 29 enemy ships totaling more than 146,000 tons. RADM Fluckey helped lead and inspire our Navy to victory. His legacy continues to inspire us today.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Navy brass pinned four Navy Crosses, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and a host of other unit and campaign awards on his chest. He was known for his audacity, courage, and, on more than one occasion, running his boat in close to shore to attack enemy shipping and bases. He even helped pioneer the idea of submarine support to special operations. We will miss him sorely.

Since my last article in this publication, we have christened PCU North Carolina (SSN-777), laid the keel for PCU New Hampshire (SSN-778), and commissioned USS Hawaii (SSN-776), our third Virginia-class submarine. The Virginia-class will provide the U.S. Navy with the advanced capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. It is the future of the Submarine Force. This is the right submarine at the right time with the right flexibility. We have a solid plan to achieve a price tag of $2 billion per ship in FY05 dollars and meet the challenge set by the CNO for a two ship per year procurement rate starting in FY12. The Undersea Enterprise and our industry partners are making great strides to achieve this goal!

Recently I selected the new Force Master Chief, CDMCM (SS) Jeff Garrison, who is currently serving as Submarine Squadron EIGHT Command Master Chief. Master Chief Garrison is reporting aboard this September and will relieve FORCM Dean Irwin. FORCM Irwin, who is retiring after 23 years of exemplary service to the Navy and our Nation, has been an inspirational leader for our submariners. On behalf of the entire Submarine Force, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you and wish Master Chief and Mrs. Irwin “fair winds and following seas.”

I am continually reminded of the talented people who make up our Submarine Force. I have had the opportunity to visit the waterfronts in San Diego, Groton, Kings Bay, Kitsap, and Norfolk, as well as our shipyards in Norfolk, Kittery, and Puget Sound, and each time I have been impressed by the teamwork between our maintenance partners and our submarine crews. This teamwork is vital to ensuring that our boats complete their maintenance availabilities on time and that they return to the fleet ready and capable.

We recently completed our first Engineering Department Master Chief (EDMC) Course as we continue to make the professional development of our Submarine Force personnel a priority. This course improves the skill sets of our best nuclear-trained chief petty officers as they report aboard to serve in one of our most challenging billets. Soon, we will partner with the Naval Aviation Enterprise to provide a nuclear-trained leading petty officer course that will provide the additional skills our deck plate leaders need to be successful leaders at sea.

The Submarine Force continues to place great emphasis on retention and diversity efforts. I recently established a Submarine Force Diversity Office. Our first Diversity Officer is LCDR Eric Mason, who will coordinate efforts to achieve our goal of a highly professional and diverse Submarine Force that reflects the demographics of the Nation we defend.

We continue to strengthen our outreach with the American public through our namesake ties. The force recently conducted two namesake embarks. USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) embarked Governor Joseph Manchin, III, of West Virginia, and Governor Sonny Perdue, of Georgia, visited Kings Bay and embarked on USS Florida (SSGN-728).

Each of you represents a vital link in the chain of activity that results in our 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.

Keep up the good work in your respective part of the Submarine Force! Smooth sailing, and good hunting.

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