Navy's 239th Birthday Through the Eyes of Submarine Sailors

Story Number: NNS141009-10Release Date: 10/9/2014 2:23:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Oct. 13 marks the U.S. Navy's 239th birthday. For many Sailors, including those in the submarine force, the Navy's birthday is a time to remember tradition and legacy.

It is a time to remember all who have lost their lives defending the country throughout the seas, and those who have made us the finest Navy in the world.

The U.S. Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, established by the Continental Congress, Oct. 13, 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America.

In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of Oct. 13 as the Navy Birthday, encouraging a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion, "to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service."

Within the Navy is, what some call the most secretive and powerful fighting component of the Navy; the submarine force. For 112 years, the Navy's submarine force has silently defended the nation under the seas. The submarine force consists of 53 attack, 14 ballistic-missile, and four guided-missile submarines that enable the Navy and the nation to win wars, deter wars, defeat terrorists, and ease disasters.

The current Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Jonathan Greenert, a career submariner himself, recently released a birthday message to the public. He said that this year's birthday theme is about remembering and thanking those that support the Navy.

"Legacy is important, and it is a time to remember who we are and where we started," said Greenert.

The CNO's message reminds us of our recent celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, noting that those who serve today embody the spirit and valor of the nation's flag.

Greenert also stressed that Navy families are just as vital to the success of the Navy as the Sailors themselves. This includes Navy communities, industry, and organizations like the United Service Organizations (USO) and the Navy League that support Sailors. He urged everyone to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the Navy and the nation.

The CNO ended his birthday message talking about his three tenets: warfighting first, operate forward, and be ready -- key themes for today's Sailors, including the submarine force.

In Pearl Harbor, Sailors from Commander, Submarine Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), as well as those assigned to local submarine commands, approach this year's Navy Birthday by reflecting on tradition, legacy and what inspired them to join.

Master Chief Fire Control Technician Jonathan Consford, the command master chief at COMSUBPAC, shared his thoughts on his 21-year submarine career and said he could not think of better place to be than in the submarine force.

"A lifestyle of discipline, adventure, operating the world's most sophisticated sea-going vessels, and all while being able to serve our great nation, was exactly what I wanted and needed," said Consford, of Houston, Texas. "While we are often thanked for our service to our nation by many people, and often we reply with a 'thank you,' I also proudly state that it is an honor to serve. It is because of these great men and women that we are proudly celebrating 239 years of service on the seas."

Another local Hawaii submariner sends his birthday greetings to all the sea warriors around the globe.

"A special 'happy birthday' goes out to all of our brothers and sisters overseas, out on the oceans, beneath the seas, in the air, and in harm's way; I salute you," said Lt. Johnathon Belcher of COMSUBPAC's communications department.

Belcher, from Gold Run, California, joined the Navy 23 years ago, to serve just as his grandfather did in WWII - to get hands-on training, gain experience, and of course, to see the world. He said it is truly an honor to serve alongside some of the most versatile, dedicated, and selfless individuals he has ever met.

Sailors from locally assigned submarines also shared their birthday thoughts.

Machinist's Mate 1st Class Eric Swynenberg, Sailor of the Year on Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762), said he believes the Navy's birthday is a great way to celebrate tradition.

"Being in the submarine force, you can see tradition day-in and day-out," said Swynenberg, of Baltimore, Maryland. "Everything in the submarine force is based on tradition; we try to show the younger guys not just how we do things, but why we do things."

He chose submarines as the best and only career path for himself for as long as he has known, he said.

"It was almost like a calling for me to join the submarine force," said Swynenberg.

Throughout the last 11 decades, submariners have advanced through four generations. The first was when submarines became a warfighting platform, and the second, was when submarines made a decisive difference in the war through domination of the seas. The third generation sparked the age of nuclear propulsion and weapons, thus securing the nation's interests. The current,and fourth, generation is defined by the use of long-range precision sensors and weapons, as well as the 'design for undersea warfare,' a submarine force guiding document that articulates how the undersea warfighter provides 'ready forces, effective employment, and future forces."

Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Joseph Gutierrez assigned to USS Greeneville, also a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, said he is glad to be a submariner and part of a submarine force that has learned to be better from it's past.

"Submarine crews today are safer, they are smarter, and the submarines are better and better," said Gutierrez, who is from Mountain Home, Idaho.

Sonar Technician (Submarines) Seaman John Collopy of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Charlotte (SSN 766) believes it is important to realize how key the Navy is to the nation, and how submarines have evolved throughout history.

"It is neat to see each chapter in the Navy, with surface, aviation and undersea all being an integral part of the Navy," said Collopy, a resident of Durham, New Hampshire. "I believe submarines are needed more than ever in the world, and are even more vital to the Navy than ever before."

As Hawaii's reflections and celebrations continue to honor this year's Navy birthday, Commander Navy Region Hawaii is scheduled to host a bell ringing ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center, Oct. 10, to mark the Navy's 239th birthday.

The age-old practice of sounding the bell during watches, on the hour and half hour, is symbolic of the Navy's hallmark efforts and is as appropriate now, in the nuclear and missile-oriented Navy, as it ever was. From the historic sailing vessels of the late 18th Century to every command today, it signals that a Sailor stands the watch. Bell ringing serves as a powerful and tangible reminder of the history, heritage and accomplishments of the naval service and is intended to be an enduring tradition of the Navy birthday celebration. The USS Arizona bell will be rung nine times to mark the changing of the watch and the beginning of the Navy's 240th year.

For more information about Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit

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Information Systems Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Joe Falcon raises the national ensign during morning colors aboard the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775).
141008-N-DB801-059 PEARL HARBOR (Oct. 8, 2014) Information Systems Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Joe Falcon raises the national ensign during morning colors aboard the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor)
October 9, 2014
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