Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. And thank you very much, Admiral Kelso, for that most kind introduction.
Indeed, Alma and I are very, very pleased to be with you this afternoon to join the men and women of the Submarine Service and the commands who support them, and all of the distin-guished guests who are here, to celebrate the return of TENNESSEE and her magnificent crew – and to commemorate this 3000th Patrol.
It is also a great delight to be back in Georgia, to be here in St. Mary’s and in Camden County, this wonderfully supportive Navy community.
It also feels good to be back in my Navy Suit. These whites, I have got to tell you, have a long and honorable tradition of their own. But they come in especially handy for an Army Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when he has to participate in a Navy ceremony, at an old Army base.
What an impressive sight TENNESSEE and her crew are behind us. I know a lot about TENNESSEE. She is a boat that our dear friend and the Navy’s First Lady, Mrs. Landess Kelso, sponsored. She was the first boat to carry our new TRIDENT D-5 missile. She was the first boat to arrive here in Kings Bay. Over 16,000 tons of power for peace. Two football fields long. Able to carry 24 missiles. Built and maintained by superb American workers. And manned by superb American sailors.
There are many ways we Americans have devised to prevent war and they have all played their roles successfully: The infantryman with a rifle in the field patrolling the wire; the pilot scrambling to a fighter, responding to an alert; the marine honing combat skills during landing exercises off an amphibious warship; the coastguardsman putting out to sea in a cutter. They each have their special job to do. They each make their special contribution. And they each require their special sacrifices.
But no one — no one — has done more to prevent conflict -no one bas made a greater sacrifice for the cause of Peace — than you, America’s proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among all our heroes of the Cold War.
To a soldier like me, sailors are different. Wonderfully different. I never cease to be awed by the extraordinary dedication and devotion to duty shown by you who go down to the sea in ships, in defense of your country. Routinely, for months on end, the sailor endures a brand of hardship that the rest of us in uniform seldom face; separation, loneliness, deprivation, confinement.
For the sailor on submarine patrol, the hardship is even greater. Not for you do the liberty boats leave the ship for a foreign port call. Not for you do the replenishment vessels come alongside. Not for you do the airplanes and helicopters land on board each day, bearing their precious cargoes of mail and news from home.
And if you, our sailors – and especially our submariners – are often so alone in your great work, you are never, never alone in your great sacrifice. That sacrifice you share with your families, with your parents and with your wives and with your children waiting silently at the pier for all those long, lonely months. How many children here today were born while Daddy was away at sea? So many wives are here today who successful-ly manage jobs and households and family crises all by them-selves. How many birthdays and anniversaries and graduations and school plays were missed, all through the years?
We owe a debt of gratitude to our sailors and to their families. And a special debt is owed to you who wear the Dolphins so proudly on your chests.
America’s leaders place special trust and confidence in the members of their Submarine Force. You go to sea entrusted with weapons of incredible destructive power. You go to sea propelled by power plants of unbelievable sophistication. You go to sea armed for Armageddon, while charged with the solemn responsibility of preventing it. No other members of America’s Armed Forces have been given so great a burden of responsibility as the sailors of the Ballistic Missile Submarine Force. No other members of America’s Armed Forces have so earned America’s trust.
Americans believe in and love their Navy. And Americans believe in, trust, and love their Submarine Force. It would be unimaginable for them to ever weaken that Force, for you are as necessary to America’s security in time of Peace as you are in time of War.
Today we are gathered to commemorate 3,000 SSBN patrols – 3,000 patrols for peace.
As was mentioned, it was on a November day in 1960 that USS GEORGE WASHINGTON left Charleston on that first patrol. It was at the height of the Cold War. We were all on guard against a belligerent, nuclear-armed Soviet Union that had crushed rebellions in Eastern Europe and was causing trouble in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. Fidel Castro had just taken over in Cuba. John Kennedy had just been elected President I was a young Lieutenant in Germany on my way out to my deterrent patrol position along the Iron Curtain.
Our SSBN patrols continued as the Cold War continued. The Berlin Crises came and went. The Cuban Crisis came and went. The Vietnam War came and went Through it all, the sailors of the Submarine Force continued to guide their craft far beneath the surface of the ocean, deterring a Third War that so often looked like it was threatening to break out and destroy us all.
You did your job well. That temble War we feared never came.
And then, finally, at long last, things changed. As Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroilal and glasnost permeated fully into Soviet society, they created cracks and fissures that split forever that unnatural community and the artificial structures that held it together. The captive nations of Eastern Europe broke their rusty shackles. The long suppressed Baltic Republics declared themselves free.
Borders opened. The Berlin Wall fell. Germany reunified.
And last year, the Soviet Union collapsed.
The Cold War was over. It was indeed over. America had won. We bad won through the efforts by our sailors and marines and coastguardsmen and soldiers and airmen who served and fought and died around the world for 45 years. And by American civilian workers and by the American people, who supported us in uniform so superbly.
Won most especially by you -America’s Blue Crews and Gold Crews manning America’s nuclear-powered Ballistic Missile Submarine fleet. And won by all of you who sustained them. By the families. And by the communities across America like those represented here, who hosted and nurtured our men and women in uniform.
Yet, even with their Cold War victory, the Boomers have continued their patrols.
Why is this? Why, with the Cold War won, do the boats still go out? The answer is because freedom is still not free. Because America’s security still must be protected. Because there are still thousands of nuclear warheads in Russia, in Ukraine, in Belarus and in Kazakhstan. Warheads that, if ever launched, can still destroy America’s cities and her way of life in half an hour.
So however warm our relations might grow with the new former Soviet Republics – however close our friendships become – we will always, always place our faith in our Boomers. And not in anyone else.
The landmark patrol from which TENNESSEE has just returned will be followed by others. There are patrols out now. And there will no doubt be a ceremony here again years from now, when the count reaches 4,000. Kings Bay, its family, and its new facilities will endure.
And from other homeports, the intrepid attack boats will still deploy as well. The marvelous sailors of the Submarine Service will continue to wend their way silently through the watery depths. And the families of those who go out will continue to wait, the pages of their lives still turning, while their loved ones serve beneath the waves.
So we stand here today on this important day, in this great place, before this mighty warship and its crew. We lift up our faces and our hearts from the waters around us to the heavens above.
And we ask God’s blessings on us all.
On those of us who are leaders, that we may always make our decisions with wisdom. On those of us who are workers, that we may always provide our support with skill. On those of us who are family members, that we may always endure our separation with courage.
And most of all – most of all – on those of us who must go down to the sea in ships, that we may always conduct our patrols with dedication, and that we may always safely return home again — to this base, to our loved ones, to this beloved country that God has blessed and we are proud to call America.
Thank you very much.