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SPEECH | March 11, 2016

USS Nevada Change of Command Ceremony

(As delivered)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command:  Fellow submariners, families and friends – good morning and thank you all for being here. 

Commodore Mark Schmall and Michelle – it’s great to see you again.  Mark, the last time I saw you we were underway aboard USS Kentucky for a successful Trident missile launch and surfaced to news of UFO sightings.  I appreciate your leadership of Submarine Squadron 17, and of course, for the fantastic work you did during your tour at U.S. Strategic Command. 

James, thanks for that very kind introduction and for inviting me to speak – and for getting me back near the water.  I enjoy living in the Midwest, but there’s nothing quite like being back near the waterfront, even if just for a short time. 

It is a distinct honor to participate in this time-honored tradition of the change of command ceremony – where we witness the all-encompassing and regulatory shift in responsibility of the USS Nevada Blue from Capt. James McIver to Cmdr. Ryan Heilman.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Capt. McIver since he was a lieutenant and I was the Commodore of Submarine Squadron 1.  We met while underway conducting some operational testing and evaluation for the Advanced Seal Delivery System.  We had candid conversations and I remember being very impressed with his leadership, initiative, and comprehensive technical knowledge.  We have stayed in touch over the years, and it has been interesting to follow his career – the highlights of which you can read in the program. 

I’m particularly proud to salute his spectacular leadership of the USS Nevada Blue and the impact he and his crew had on national security – and I’m especially pleased to do this with his family present.

Francesca, you have been a tremendous support system for James.  It’s not lost on me that military life can be demanding on the family.  It often requires significant sacrifices, particularly in balancing your own work as a Spanish teacher and raising two children.  I don’t take that for granted, and I thank you for everything you have done to support James, and our nation. 

Christian and Jackson, I also want to recognize how you have supported your dad.  I know deployments can be tough – but I hope your dad has shared a few sea stories with you so you have an appreciation of how he spends his time when he isn't at home.  Know that your love and support has contributed to his success.  You should be very, very proud of him -- as I know he is of you.

Parents Natalie and Michael, and in-laws Cheryl and Regino, your being here is a testament to the importance of family. 

Similarly, from CDR Ryan Heilman’s side it’s fantastic to have father Terril and son Mitchell.  Thanks for being here.  Mitchell, I’m sure you will pass on to your sister Lauren, the incredibly important work your father is doing for our nation.

James – you have had a tremendous “CO” tour, but I am sure you would agree with me that the success you have enjoyed is due, in large part, to the extraordinary Sailors of the USS Nevada Blue.  Their professionalism and hard work is evident in the recent announcement of the USS Nevada’s selection for the 2015 Trident Submarine Outstanding Performance Award.  Congratulations and well done! Thanks for all you do. 

Although your mission sight is unseen by the majority of our population, it is critically important for our nation given the global strategic landscape, which is more complex, dynamic and uncertain than at any time in history.  Just a glance at today’s headlines illustrates its complexity and volatility.  While we are busy with our ongoing fight to defeat terrorist activity, we are also concerned with the actions & activities in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran – all of which have strategic capabilities. 

Deterrence is about conducting integrated and combined operations and activities.  As such, we must look at our military capabilities in a holistic manner, and fully integrate them with our other elements of national power.  Adversaries, and potential adversaries, must understand that we have a safe, secure, effective and ready nuclear deterrent force.

While some view our strategic deterrence capabilities as only the platforms and weapons that comprise our visible triad – made up of our intercontinental ballistic missiles, our nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers and our ballistic missile submarines, it is more comprehensive than that.

Often overlooked are the necessary tankers that refuel our strategic bombers. 

A safe, secure, effective and ready strategic deterrent also includes: an appropriate intelligence and sensing apparatus to give indications and warnings of incoming threats; assured National and Nuclear Command, Control and Communications; the necessary infrastructure to sustain and maintain reliable warheads; a credible missile defense system that defends against limited attacks from rogue nations like North Korea; a resilient space and cyberspace architecture; a robust conventional force; as well as an operational team of strategic warriors – such as the Sailors of USS Nevada.

Ballistic Missile Submarines  like USS Nevada are integral to our comprehensive deterrence efforts.  For almost three years, under Capt. McIver’s leadership, the SSBN Nevada Blue has silently but constantly operated our most survivable leg of the nuclear triad.

Few Americans understand the enormous responsibility of operating a naval vessel on the high seas, let alone the complexities of operating a submarine – especially an SSBN.  The ship’s captain must have a technical understanding of the nuclear reactor and propulsion plant – providing unlimited endurance and the ability to operate below the surface.  The captain must have mastery of the combat and navigation systems, allowing the submarine to meet my operational requirements.

It goes without saying that the captain has responsibility for the command and control of the SLBMs that the USS Nevada (and our 13 other SSBNs) carry.  I might add that this responsibility of deterring adversaries and assuring our allies comes directly from the president.  Finally, the captain has responsibility for 170 of America’s sons and daughters -- leading, training, safeguarding and relying on his strategic warriors to carry out the missions I just described. 

I hope you see why I view the role of an SSBN commanding officer as one of most demanding and important positions in the world!  It is a 24/7 task and success is built on teamwork.  While I can’t describe much of what the USS Nevada accomplished while underway, the ship’s contribution was vital to our national security. 

During Capt. McIver’s tour, USS Nevada Blue completed four strategic deterrent patrols – always ready to provide the POTUS options if deterrence failed, while simultaneously assuring our allies and partners throughout the world. 

As you will hear in the award citation, this team drove results, ranging from the 2015 Submarine Squadron 17 Battle “E” award to impeccable inspection results.  Frankly, however, the citation does not do justice illustrating James’ superb ability to see the full 360° picture, despite the periscope’s somewhat limited field of view.

The citation, for example, doesn’t tell you that the USS Nevada Blue crew consistently met the most demanding pre-patrol maintenance and training periods with superior planning and that this ship was fully ready for every strategic mission. 

It doesn’t tell you that crew performance steadily improved through each patrol or that Capt. McGiver hit every key milestone in a highly demanding operational environment.  And it doesn’t tell you that Capt. McIver aggressively communicated his hard earned lessons in order to make the waterfront team better.

James -- there is no better tribute to a commanding officer than a successful team.  You were unstoppable in your pursuit of excellence and you drove your team to unprecedented achievements.  Their successes are a direct result of the environment and culture you created. 

You and your team have enjoyed remarkable success.  You can be justifiably proud.  Congratulations on a highly successful tour.

I wish you and Francesca the best of luck on your next assignment.  I know you will do great things as a Battalion Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy.  By the way, part of this assignment also includes a position as the Nuclear Accessions Officer for midshipmen.  I know you will do well given your passion for leadership and mentorship.

Francesca, I know you have been very involved as a member of the Command Support Team working closely with our Sailors and their families – handling countless issues while the ship was away.  Your efforts ultimately increased the readiness of the crew – which at the end of the day contributed not only to all the accolades, but to the security of our country.  As a family, you are so representative of the sacrifices and demands of our joint military families at large.  I know you will be sorely missed by the Nevada crew and families.  Thank you for your continued support to our Navy, USSTRATCOM and our Nation.

Cmdr. Ryan Heilman, thank you for accepting this charge.  The successful operation of a nuclear powered submarine is no small task, but I know you are ready to assume command.   You come with tremendous credentials.  As the squadron deputy you have seen firsthand the training and preparation needed to execute this demanding mission.  You have seen what works well and what doesn’t, and I know you will bring these experiences to your new crew and ship in the most meaningful way.

Our submarine crews are the best trained and most lethal in the world, and you are getting an award winning crew – literally.

Once again, thank you all for coming and may God continue to bless our Navy, and of course, the USA!