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SPEECH | April 25, 2014

Greater Omaha Area 114th Submarine Birthday Ball Remarks

Well Good Evening and Happy Birthday! It’s great to be here tonight, and an honor to spend time with you to celebrate this 114. I thank Dave Kriete and obviously Mark Marty and the elite group that put all this together, to plan for this great affair. It’s amazing to see all the talent we have here. And particularly of all the balls I have been to here most recently, this is the most diverse in terms of service uniforms""from the flag level, general officer level and on down. It’s great to see you all here at this ball tonight. Perhaps there’s no secret about the exciting time to be had at submarine birthday balls. For this one night only, which is a little bit off script for our culture as a “silent service”, permission granted to not be silent tonight as we celebrate!

For those of you who haven’t been to a ball before, as Dave Kriete talked about, the ‘tolling of the boats” is one way we recognize and remember our submarine shipmates who’ve sailed in harm’s way and of course did not return. It is a stark reminder of the cost of that selfless service to our country, what it can demand, and despite the prevalent dangers we face there are still Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, and Civilians putting themselves on the line, in harm’s way every day, dedicated to the cause of freedom. So I salute those of you who have served, and those of you who continue to serve with honor, courage, and commitment. And of course to the families who also sacrifice, so I thank you too for the service you provide our nation.

And I might not have a ride home if I don’t recognize my young, beautiful bride, Ms. Bonnie, of some almost 36 years. And what that translates to, of course, means that I met her when she was minus about 20. Hopefully that gives me a coupon! And, of course, my daughter Elizabeth who also puts up with me--thank you for being here, and you look wonderful! And just the wonderful spouses, friends, and significant others that are here tonight. You ALL look fantastic! So how about a round of applause?

Tonight we celebrate 114 years of submarine history. If you think back and try to imagine what life was like in those early years, it will give us an appreciation for just how far we’ve come, and the unique discoveries we have made along the way. But even with those advances, we are still learning new things as we go. For example, I noticed there are some young folks here the audience tonight, making me and a few others here feel significantly older""and in some cases by a couple decades""but who’s counting?

So, I did do a little pop culture research to see what ideas, perspectives, and phenomena our young folks are being exposed to""and I learned a few things""a few new things, which I have a sneaking suspicion I might not be the only one in the audience, but then again as my daughter will remind me how much of a dinosaur I am""well we’ll see!

I learned that twerking and tweeting are NOT synonymous, and I also learned who Miley Cyrus is""and not to google her on a government computer! I also learned, and have now experienced some of these phenomena called selfies and photo bombing--a tactical term! And even what my elite front office team who travels with me calls BBMing, and I had no clue what that was""there’s a Black Berry special texting methodology which they gave me a demonstration of. I have learned about the concise nature and 140-character limitation of Twitter...Staff take notice: I have thus decided that all future preparation packages will come in the form of Tweeter Feeds, in comparison to some of the voluminous ones I receive.

But while I joke about my startling discoveries, we are all here to celebrate those early innovative and technological advances that led to the US becoming the world’s greatest submarine force. For 114 years, the US submarine force has been a major player in our national defense. Tonight we honor the contributions of John Holland who, 114 years ago, sold his 7-man submarine to the United States Navy. His forward thinking and design of a submersible powered by gasoline on the surface and by electric motors while submerged was how our submarines ran for quite some time.

In the 1950’s, the vision and leadership of Admiral Rickover led to the advent of the nuclear submarine""bringing major advances in submarine warfare. These boats, and men who crewed them, operated faster, deeper, and longer than ever before. They broke the endurance records for speed, enabling us to sail beneath the polar ice cap and were the first watercraft to reach the geographic North Pole. The USS HOLLAND and those early nuclear-powered boats proudly served as the model for the modern submarine. From the first war patrol of L-4 in 1917""to the indispensable role the submarine force played following the attack on Pearl Harbor""to the USS George Washington getting underway for the world’s first nuclear deterrent patrol""to the USS CHEYENNE launching the first tomahawk missile during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM...and most recently the USS FLORIDA launching more than 90 Tomahawk missiles toward targets in Libya. The “Silent Service” had "" and continues to have "" an instrumental role in U.S. and world history.

Today, our submarines and their crews support peacetime engagement with a flexible forward presence, supporting our national defense strategy, providing intelligence collection, special operations support, precision strike, and sea denial. Our nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines are essential as the most survivable leg of our nuclear triad--alongside our responsive, land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, and of course our flexible, nuclear-capable bombers.

While our fleet ballistic missile submarines deter nuclear war, our fast attack submarines and SSGNs also play a vital role in deterrence. They continue the work pioneered by WWII-era submariners, operating independently far from friendly waters, gaining valuable experience in undersea domains that could be contested in the future. Then, as today, their ability to respond quickly in crisis situations to generate that forward presence and to be the first to the fight exemplifies the concept of strategic ambiguity and serve to give our potential adversaries pause, knowing that the US Submarine Force will always be ready to respond to ANY contingency.

I would be remiss if I also didn’t take a moment to recognize the essential contributions by our Allies in deterrence around the globe. In particular, our Australian Allies and our United Kingdom Allies--represented here tonight by CAPTAIN Dicky Daws""are you out there? We maintain a very close relationship at some of the most highly classified levels with regards to our submarine operations with these two countries. Dicky, and to all our Allies--I appreciate and thank you for your continued friendship and alliance.

To the submariners around the world on patrol this evening, deterring potential adversaries, assuring our Allies, and promoting the interests of peace and freedom around the world""I thank you!

And while it is important to acknowledge the continuation of this great force""we must never forget our history and our traditions, so I leave you with this. Some of you may be familiar with this story. In the beginning there was darkness and void. So God created the heavens and the earth""and the sun, the moon and the stars. And he divided the earth between the land and the sea and filled both with assorted creatures. From the slime, he fashioned salty creatures, dressed in bright clothes, with a fondness for worms and maggots. He called them""Jar Heads. He created flighty creatures of the air, dressed them in ruffled, perfumed clothing and gave them great cities in which to live. They were given the big blue sky, under which they carried out heathen rituals and ceremonies both day and night. He called these creatures Airdales. He made surface creatures of the sea, which he called Skimmers. He gave them grand uniforms to wear, and gave them all the world’s exotic and wonderful places to visit. He gave them e-mail capes and phones in their staterooms, and laundry facilities to clean and polish those splendid uniforms.

Feeling pleased with his creations, He rested on the 7th day. But on the 8th day at 0700, He looked down and was not a happy man. He knew he had not quite achieved perfection""so""He thought about his labors, and in His infinite wisdom, He created the most divine creature""His masterpiece""called the Submariners""the special ones he sent to US STRATCOM! And He gave them his most cherished gifts: black steel messengers of death called the "Smoke Boat" in which to roam the depths of the oceans, arrows and slingshots, and cruise missiles and torpedoes to wage war against the forces of evil. He gave them a “Sanctuary” in which to live when they were exhausted and weary. He gave them great food, submarine pay, fantastic spouses, and occasionally, subsistence so they may entertain the locals on Saturday nights""and impress the heck out of the creatures He called the "Skimmers” and "Jar Heads".

And at the end of the 8th day, He looked down upon the earth and saw that all was good. But, He was still not happy because, in the course of His mighty labors He had forgotten one thing. He had not kept a pair of those coveted "Dolphins" for Himself. But, He thought about it and consoled himself, in the certain knowledge that “Not Just Anybody Can Be a Submariner”!

For the past 114 years, our submariners have flexed and adapted to an ever evolving complex and dynamic security environment. I know they are ready--and will continue to be ready--to respond across the spectrum of conflict for our country, for our joint military service, and of course for US Strategic Command. Thank you all for your service, Thank you for your professionalism and for answering the call, and of course for listening to the speech. Happy 114th birthday and God Bless!