This edition of UNDERSEA WARFARE focuses on international cooperation — the power and synergy of working with allies and partners. I think that we submariners often lead the way in international engagement. Often, when the U.S. Navy wants to enhance a relationship with another navy, we find that there is already a rich relationship between submarine forces in place that includes waterspace management, submarine rescue, port visits, personnel exchanges and fast friendships between the two forces.
This is completely natural. Submariners worldwide share a common set of circumstances that bind us together. Submarining is dangerous business. It is by no means a natural state to put to sea a steel boat of several thousand tons loaded with weapons and other sources of tremendous potential energy, submerge that boat, propel it for months continuously around the globe, possibly release those weapons to destroy an enemy, and return home safely.
No technology alone can make us safe and effective. It is only possible because of dedicated submariners with deep expertise and a deeper sense of integrity, who feel that they "own" this challenge — it is theirs. We are expected to do the right thing and are truthful about what we say.
Submarining is at its essence a human endeavor.
• We are experts at what we do and masters of our craft.
• Submarine officers and chiefs are engaged combat leaders. Trained supervisors lead and back up expert operators. Learning does not stop when one becomes qualified or
more senior — in fact, learning becomes more critical.
• For commanding officers, this takes on special significance. All submariners understand the responsibility, authority and accountability that come with that job. It is the foundation
of the special trust that all submariners place in their CO.
• Because of the inherent dangers, submariners have a culture
of rigorous use of procedures. But we don't become slaves to
a "checklist mentality"; we maintain a questioning, skeptical attitude, ready to adapt to unforeseen events or to take
advantage of fleeting opportunities.
• We are committed to making ourselves and our teams better. Successful submarine crews dive in to self-assessment at all
levels so that they can constantly improve. The Submarine Force has no equal in the rigor with which we drive errors to zero
and maximize warfighting readiness. This is the only way to manage the dangerous undersea environment — turning it from a potential liability into the stealth that allows us to succeed.
A terrific current-day example of international cooperation amongst submariners: As I write this, we are participating in Exercise Bold Monarch 2011 off the coast of Spain. As you'll read in the article on page 6, this exercise is held every three years and is the world's largest submarine rescue exercise, involving submarines, ships and aircraft from both NATO and non-NATO countries, including Russia (this will be the first time a Russian submarine has participated in any NATO exercise). Approximately 2,000 military and non-military personnel will attend from over 20 countries. The exercise is designed to maximize international cooperation in submarine rescue operations — something that has always been very important to NATO and all the submarine-operating nations. With over 40 nations operating submarines worldwide, interest in this exercise extends to the entire global submarine community — including Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Peru and South Korea — and many nations are sending representatives to observe what is an extremely realistic exercise. Now that's partnership!
In summary, in the U.S. Submarine Force, as in all submarine forces, THE SUBMARINER IS THE KEY TO OUR SUCCESS. Not just the best boats, sensors and weapons, but all these together, operated by the best Submariners. To close my letter, below, I've quoted an excerpt from a terrific book that captures what it meant to be a submariner in Pearl Harbor during World War II. As I read this, it struck me how so much is still the same!
Submariners wearing the dolphins on their lower right sleeve and the sub combat insignia on their left breast seemed to be a breed of sailor apart. Sub sailors were reserved in public and stuck together, reinforcing the image of the "silent" service.
They had been where no one else dared.
Chief Petty Officer Joe McGrievy, the Chief of the Boat on Seahorse [SS-304], observed, "Submariners kept to themselves. They were reserved because they weren't supposed to talk about their work or themselves. They were indefinably different. Wearing the dolphins, and especially the combat pin, got you respect. Submariners were volunteers. They had to be, since almost one man in four did not come back."
Toni Peabody, wife of Harvard-educated submarine officer Endicott "Chub" Peabody, who would become Governor of Massachusetts, thought that submarine officers had a certain something about them, very different, very attractive. You
trusted them immediately, she believed. There was plenty of camaraderie among them. They were an exciting bunch to
be around, and you liked them almost instinctively.
—from The Bravest Man–Richard O'Kane
and the Amazing Submarine Adventures
of the USS Tang, by William Tuohy
It's a privilege to be a U.S. Navy Submariner and to be in your company!