NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- It has been 117 years since John Holland sold the submersible Holland VI to the U.S. Navy, giving birth to the U.S. Submarine Force. Though only starting out with a single 64-ton submarine manned by a crew of six, it has grown to become the premier undersea force in the world.
On April 22, Hampton Roads submariners celebrated that heritage when more than 950 veterans, active duty and friends gathered for the force's 117th birthday.
"This truly is a night of celebration of our heritage, an evening of remembrance of our shipmates who have gone before us on deterrent patrol and a night of recognition of all of you who have stepped up to the challenge and the standards set by 117 years of United States submarines," said Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, Commander, Submarine Forces and guest speaker for the evening. "I am immensely proud of each and every member of this incredible team, including our spouses and our families. On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank each and every one of you for what you do every day."
Celebrating the birth of the submarine force is done by many people in different ways. From the WWII submarine veterans to those Sailors who just entered the silent service, the Submarine Force's birthday means something different for everyone.
"It allows all of our young sailors to come out and see the history and see the traditions we have in the Navy and also the submarine force," said Sean Craycraft, command master chief of Submarine Squadron Six.
"We toll the lost submarines; we give our respect to them. We also give our respect to the World War II veterans, so I think all in all it is the history and celebration and getting people involved in it."
As a command master chief within the submarine community, Craycraft has seen his share of Submarine Birthday celebrations and had a message to the first-timers at the ball.
"Sit back and enjoy it. It's a birthday celebration so don't be uptight. Get around and talk to everybody, you can meet a lot of history if you speak with the World War II vets and pick their brains and see what it was really like years ago," said Craycraft.
Fire Control Technician Seaman Daniel Shay, assigned the PCU Indiana (SSN 789) and newcomer to the ball, confirmed that he was excited to take the command master chief up on his advice.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Shay. "It's just amazing how many people and submarine crews there are in the area that come out to celebrate. Seeing the heritage and how the community has progressed; I'm looking forward to hearing the stories."
The evening's festivities included dinner, tolling of the boats, warfare pinning, a ceremonial cake cutting by the youngest and oldest qualified submariner, judging of table centerpieces built by the ships and squadrons, and dancing.
A celebration rooted deep in traditions and core values has seen the submarine community through the past, into the present and propels them to the future, with the charge of being the finest the nation has to offer in the defense of the liberties we hold most dear.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Forces, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant/.