Undersea Warriors,

Greetings from Norfolk! Last issue, I spoke about a historical advantage enjoyed by the U.S. Submarine Force: a strong culture of continuous learning and innovation, which is crucial to dealing with the ever increasing pace of global change. Changes in the Asia-Pacific region represent key elements in that larger global picture. Recent developments have dramatically altered the political, economic, and strategic environment for the United States and our allies there. China has significantly expanded its military budgets and even constructed over 3,000 acres of artificial islands in the South China Sea, signaling its intention to become the prominent regional power with even broader maritime influence. North Korea, as the only nation to conduct nuclear weapon tests this century, continues to aggressively expand its nuclear capabilities.

This issue focuses on the Asia-Pacific, the dynamic environment there, and another tremendous advantage we enjoy: the highly professional submarine forces that partner with us. You will read about the diverse histories of our allied submarine forces operating in the region as well as the unique operational, collaborative, and submarine rescue capabilities that each brings to the fight. These partnerships will only grow more important as we work to overcome the challenges we face together and get faster at innovation in our technology, processes, tactics, and strategy.

You may also be struck, as I was, by a common theme shared by all Submariners: the particular demands that submarining places on people. Submariners operate far forward, usually independently and “behind enemy lines” for long periods of time without external support, in both peacetime and wartime. Submarines have small crews. Each person has multiple roles, the safety of the ship depends on each individual’s performance, and initiative is expected from everyone.

This environment places an extreme premium on the personal honesty and integrity of the people running the boat. It’s all about trust—many different kinds of trust. Trust in the knowledge and integrity of a crewmember who certifies a safety item. Trust in those who build or repair submarines to go to test depth or into combat. Trust in the judgment of those who plan operations and exercises. Trust in the submarine leadership to do the right thing when faced with a difficult situation and no ability to get advice from ashore.

Trust cannot be surged. It is built up over time by consistent high performance as individuals and teams. I’ve often said that an empty submarine sitting at the pier is capable of only one thing: rusting. The team that can run that machine does not appear magically out of nowhere full of confident experts with all the tools and personal experience needed to meet the high standards the submarine environment demands. Leadership at all levels, in any submarine force, must continuously focus on training and leadership development to give people the tools they need. That common commitment to personal and organizational excellence is the hallmark of the Submariner the world over.

Every Submariner across the world lives that commitment every day.

Thank you for all you do. Keep charging!

J.E. Tofalo