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News | Aug. 14, 2018

Ohio-native celebrates family, friends, and service during promotion ceremony

By United States Strategic Command Public Affairs

A sunny day in land-locked Nebraska isn’t where you would expect a promotion ceremony for a captain in the U.S. Navy. But, on Aug. 9, 2018, that is exactly where more than 120 friends, family and colleagues gathered to celebrate the promotion of Fairborn, Ohio-native Capt. John D. Spencer to the rank of rear admiral.


U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), officiated the promotion ceremony recognizing Spencer’s 27 years of dedicated service on the missile deck in front of USSTRATCOM headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.


“Friends and family are here to support you,” said Hyten. “You look around and see the men and women of the command that are out here to say thank you for what you’ve done and enjoy this beautiful day. This beautiful day is a day that you worked hard for and you deserve.”


It was during a visit to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., over three decades ago with his father and uncle that led Spencer to the Navy.


Spencer graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in Systems Engineering in 1991.  He then went on to earn a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College and completed a National Security Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


It was his service as a midshipman aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Augusta (SSN-710) that ultimately brought Spencer to the Cornhusker State.

“In 1988, when Midshipman John Spencer was on a month long summer tour aboard USS Augusta, he fell in love with the submarine business,” said the general. “He realized that is what he is going to do.”


Prior to being the executive officer to Hyten, Spencer was the Submarine Squadron 16 commodore at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., where he was responsible for the maintenance and operations of four Ohio-class guided missile submarines; USS Florida (SSGN-728), USS Georgia (SSGN 729), USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) and USS Maryland (SSBN-738), and was awarded with the Legion of Merit for his service. He oversaw seven mission periods for SSGNs, ensured they met SSGN global force management requirements, led the first enlisted women in submarines conversion of an Atlantic Fleet submarine, and guided USS Maryland (SSBN-738) out of her refueling overhaul and coordinated her recommitment.


According to Hyten, after being stationed in 15 places in 27 years, Spencer has proven his dedication, discipline, and sacrifices as a sailor, a leader, academic scholar, and an important asset to the USSTRATCOM team. All of these traits offer a spring board to the next level of leadership at his forthcoming assignment as director, Nuclear Support Directorate, Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Ft. Belvoir, Va.


“I don’t know what the next chapter will bring you, but I do know you are going to do amazing things,” said Hyten. “Because you are an amazing person, with an amazing family. As you stand up here remember to look out at the crowd and look at these faces - because these are the faces that built you into an admiral in the United States Navy. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. John, thank you for allowing me to do this. I’ve never promoted someone to an admiral in the U.S. Navy.”


Spencer, a 1987 graduate of Fairborn High School, was presented with the Defense Superior Service Medal, a senior American military decoration of the Department of Defense, which is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who perform superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility.


Spencer’s wife, Brenda, also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former naval officer, his mother and his four children assisted in the pinning of his shoulder boards and the donning of his combination cover with golden oak leaf signifying his promotion to flag officer.


Following the reaffirmation of the oath of office, Spencer delivered his remarks.


Spencer thanked Hyten “for the opportunity to grow” finding it to be an overwhelming experience at times “working at this high level of the government for a mission as important as we do.”


He was grateful for the “talented and enthusiastic people” that worked at USSTRATCOM and recognized being raised in a large, loving family was the backbone to his achievements.


“All my personal and professional successes I’ve had have started with the foundation in my Mom and Dad’s house,” said Spencer. “I truly do mean it - I wouldn’t be here without that foundation.”


As his youngest son slept in Brenda’s lap he emotionally thanked her and his children for the love and support throughout his career.


“Brenda is a great partner and friend,” he said. “I was told to marry someone I like. We really like each other. It’s been 15 years and we still enjoy being around each other. She really is part of this journey - patriotic and dedicated to the Navy mission as much as I am.”


Spencer felt humbled and grateful to be promoted. He plans to take advantage of his promotion to do good and use this position to make the Navy better.


“If I had to picture this day,” said newly-pinned rear admiral. “It certainly, in my mind, wasn’t 1,200 miles from the nearest ocean and an Air Force officer promoting me, but I’ll take it. This tour at USSTRATCOM has been exceptionally rewarding. We are responsible for the most important mission in the Department of Defense ... the bedrock of the defense of the country starts here at USSTRATCOM.”


USSTRATCOM has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.


For more information, contact the USSTRATCOM Public Affairs Office at 402-294-4130 or or visit