Congressman Dicks, Secretary Kunesh, Fellow Flags, Distinguished guests of the Navy, Richard and Guerrero family members, PAR CHE Association Members and friends of USS PARCHE, Commodore Myers and the COMSUBDEVRON Five staff, P ARCHE crewmembers, CAPT Rosalli, Mr. Barry Divine and their PSNSY Ocean Engineering Team; ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It is truly an honor to be here this morning in the beautiful (and wet) Pacific Northwest. Admiral Williams; Commodore Myers; Captain Biesel; Captain Richard; thank you for your hospitality.
To the assembled PARCHE Commanding Officers (all but 1 is here in attendance) Welcome! Dick Charles, Jack Maurer, Pete Graef, Rick Buchanan; Ben Wachendorf, Bruce Smith, Al Hochevar and of course, Chas Richard: your presence here underlines the grandeur of this occasion. For it is each of you and your magnificent crews which have made PARCHE so special.
Chas, and Crew of PARCHE: Your ship never looked better. And finally, let me say welcome to the many PARCHE crewmembers that have joined us today. YOUR presence reaffirms the value of your efforts, which for over 30 years sustained a critical and unique component of this nation’s defense. You embody the PAR CHE herself: “Par Excellence” … and the considerable distance some of you must have traveled to be here further demonstrates your continued commitment to those same ideals which made the PAR CHE teams so uniquely successful. Your steadfast devotion to duty, ingenuity, boldness, and confidence as PAR CHE crewmembers past and present symbolizes the essence of our nation and is a clear demonstration of your love and passion for freedom.
Seeing you all here today, crewmembers, commanding officers, family, friends, makes me proud to be a submariner, and honored to be your Pacific Submarine Force Commander.
Thank you for being here to witness and partake in this solemn yet celebratory occasion of PARCHE’s deactivation. PARCHE has had a career of service unmatched in the annals of naval submarine service. Steered faithfully by her superb crews over a lifetime of 30 years, PARCHE has accumulated citation upon citation for her superb performance in critical national tasking. In fact, she has become the most decorated ship in our navy’s history. Having earned thirteen Expeditionary Medals, Ten Navy Unit Commendations, and Nine Presidential Unit Commendations, she now ranks amongst the those legendary vessels which we have all read about, in history books time and time again:
CONSTITUTION … repelling British cannon rounds with her white oak armor, she earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” and helped win our nation’s independence and establish American control of the high seas for almost a century. A symbol of our sailors’ honor, courage and commitment, she is still in commission and sails from Boston Harbor every September crewed by Chief Petty Officer Selected.
MONITOR … Heralding a new age in naval warfare tactics and armament in 1862, MONITOR engaged the confederate ship VIRGINIA in the Battle of Hampton Roads. The genius of a Swedish immigrant, engineer John Erickson, she is a shining example of American ingenuity and determination. From that day forward, the Navy would abandon wooden-hulled vessels in favor of ironclads. Her recent recovery off the shore of North Carolina clearly demonstrates our nation’s appreciation for our Naval Heritage and the role you continue to play in America’s economic and national security.
USS MISSOURI (BB 61) … That most powerful Battleship whose awesome 16-inch guns fired for effect throughout the seven seas in conflicts from the 1940s until her final decommissioning in 1990’s. Moored in Pearl Harbor just a few hundred yards from my quarters on Ford Island, “Mighty Mo” serves as an 887-ft billboard announcing the fierce and unrivaled power of American Freedom.
And USS NAUTILUS … As our first nuclear powered combatant, NAUTILUS ushered in a new era submarine warfare. Unconstrained by the tethers of a conventional propulsion plant, she laid the foundation for the remarkable operational readiness we demonstrate now, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Her groundbreaking under-ice Arctic transit is now a regular occurrence, repeated just this summer by both USS OKLAHOMA CITY and ALEXANDRIA, as they deployed to the West Pacific from their homeports on the East Coast.
USS PARCHE (SSN 683) … PARCHE initially deployed from Charleston, South Carolina to challenge the Soviet Empire at the height of the Cold War. After transferring to the Pacific Fleet, she began her illustrious career as an Ocean Engineering, Research, Development, Test and Evaluation platform out of Mare Island. Over the next 3 decades, PARCHE and crew sailed thousands of miles at maximum operational readiness, consistently accomplishing the most challenging national tasking. After contributing greatly to the successful defeat of communism in the Soviet Union, she executed innumerable missions, employing her inherent stealth, and joint warfare capabilities.
I recall the names and heritage of these fine ships to illustrate the true significance of this day. PARCHE is the last of the 37 STURGEON or 637 Class SSNs in service, a fleet of superb ships who rightfully deserve a lion’s share of the credit for challenging and defeating the Soviet Union.
Yes-the STURGEONs were a significant factor in our winning of the COLD WAR. They were successful not by shooting Toma-hawk missiles or Mk 48 torpedoes at the enemy. These magnificent ships did it silently with great stealth, and with their innovative, courageous crews ….
Over the course of the last decade, however, our Submarine Force has transformed itself: Today, our current workhorses, the Los Angeles class SSNs, rely upon their inherent strengths of stealth, mobility, endurance and firepower to quickly and decisively defeat any potential adversary. Over twenty 688’s deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, launching Tomahawk cruise missile strikes from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. And every day they are on station throughout the world employed in missions supporting the War on Terror and conducting tasking vital to our nation’s security.
Later this week, in Norfolk, Virginia the Navy will place in commission the most modern and capable submarine in the world, USS VIRGINIA. The first ship designed and built Post-Cold War, the VIRGINIA-class’ modular design and spiral development modernization will carry into the future the torch that PAR CHE and other SSNs have kept burning for so many years.
2004 is truly a year of transition for the Submarine Force. And I’d imagine a few of the gentlemen seated to my left would say that their years in command of PARCHE were marked by significant milestones, if not similar transition periods. To illustrate the span of history that PAR CHE covered, and the monumental efforts of the crew, DEVRON Five, and the many Puget Sound and Mare Island Naval Shipyard workers who made it all a success, I’d like to offer a brief synopsis of each commanding officer’s tour, and ask the CO and his crew to stand and be recognized accordingly.
- In December 1970, Ingalls Shipyard laid PARCHE’s keel in Pascagoula, Mississippi and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was Director of Nuclear Propulsion. In this same year, our shipyards would begin converting our Lafayette-Class SSBNs to launch POSEIDON missiles.
- CDR Dick Charles, the first CO, commissioned her in August 1974, in Pascagoula, MS. I believe the first CO of a ship is arguably the most influential Captain, setting the ship’s character in place for others to build upon. PARC HE immediately transited to her new homeport of Charleston, South Carolina. The crew completed sea and sound trials and would later participate in an annual Atlantic Readiness Exercise (LANTREADEX) before deploying to the Mediterranean. While in the Med, she participated in numerous NA TO exercises, operating out of La Maddalena, Sardinia with our European allied navies. By this time, the Navy was moving forward on its plans to establish Bangor, Washington as the initial base for TRIDENT Submarine operations
- CDR Jack Maurer, after relieving in October 1976, took the ship to Mare Island to join Submarine Development Group One and commenced the first Ocean Engineering conversion. Just a month later, the Navy would commission the lead ship of its class, USS LOS ANGELES (SSN 688) at Newport News, Virginia. PARCHE would later deploy on four separate North Pacific missions in support of CNO tasking, earning a Navy Unit Commendation and her first and second Presidential Unit Commendations. Before the end of his tour, the historic ship NAUTILUS would be decommissioned in a ceremony just a few piers from the PARCHE’s at Mare Island. Jack would later become the Commodore of Submarine Development Squadron 1.
- In October 1980, Jack Maurer would tum over the reins to CDR Pete Graef. Pete too would later become the Development Squadron I Commodore. While under Pete’s command, PARCHE conducted her fifth North Pacific deployment and her first 2 West Pacific missions. In 1982 CDR Graefs crew set the record for the longest port-to-port mission of 124 days while on WESTPAC, almost running out of food, coffee and most importantly the Captain’s cigars. These missions earned the ship its 3•d and 41h Presidential Unit Citations and the ship’s second NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION. About this same time, Admiral Kinnaird McKee would relieve Admiral Rickover at Naval Reactors; by 1983 the TOMAHAWK cruise missile would be operational. As XO of the RICHARD B. RUSSELL (SSN 687), I would have my first encounter with PARCHE during Pete Graers tour. As our squadron-mate in DEVRON One, 1 remember that the PAR CHE took so many of our spare parts on mission, we started calling her 687B … Affectionately, or course.
- CDR Rick Buchanan would relieve in December 1984, just a month after Ronald Reagan was reelected to his second term as our President. Over the course of the next several years he would perfect PARCHE’s Ocean Engineering capabilities. PARCHE deployed to the West Pacific for a 3’d and 4th mission in that theater, earning her third Navy Unit Commendation and 51h PRESIDENTIAL UNIT COMMENDATION. During CDR Buchanan’s tour, the Submarine Force continued to adapt for new missions and challenges throughout the world, converting USS SAM HOUSTON and JOHN MARSHALL to special operations SSNs and introducing the Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) to the fleet. Rick would complete his distinguished naval career as a successful Flag Officer
- With P ARCHE in dry-dock conducting a refueling overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, LCDR Ben Wachendorf relieved as Commanding Officer in May of 1988. Just a few months later, USS SAN JUAN, the first improved Los Angeles class SSN (or 6881) would be commissioned and the TRIDENT D-5 missile would enter operation onboard USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734). PARC HE herself would continue this trend of modernization and improvement, and was converted extensively for Ocean Engineering projects with the addition of a 100-ft hull section to become the Navy’s premier undersea Research, Development Test and Evaluation platform. In 1991, during the course of Operation Desert Storm, USS LOUISVILLE and PITTSBURGH would launch the first TOMAHAWK cruise missiles from a submarine in combat against IRAQ. Ben commanded PARCHE for a record 6 years, completing the extensive modifications, the ensuing at sea trials periods and a fifth West Pacific deployment that earned the ship its 61h Presidential Unit Citation. Today, Admiral Wachendorf serves as our Defense Attache in Moscow, Russia.
- In December 1993, CDR Bruce Smith relieved as CO, and embarked upon the ship’s second change of homeport, moving the ship to Bangor, Washington. Just 3 months later, USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO, one of the original “41 for Freedom” SSBNs is the last to be deactivated. Under CDR Smith’s com-mand, the ship conducted operations that earned the ship its seventh PRESIDENTIAL UNIT COMMENDATION and fourth Navy Unit Commendation. Bruce would later go on to command Submarine Squadron 11 and eventually return to Pearl Harbor where he exercised total control of the Pacific Submarine Force as my Chief of Staff.
- Al Hochevar commanded PAR CHE from November 1995 to December 1997, deploying numerous times from its new DEVRON Five facilities in Bangor. As Group Commander here, I interacted with Al and his PAR CHE crewmembers on a regular basis, gaining a renewed appreciation for their ship’s unique capabilities and crew’s unrivaled work ethic. Under CDR Hochevar’s leadership the ship would earn the ship’s fifth and sixth Navy Unit Commendations for completing missions vital to national security. The Submarine Force continued to achieve noteworthy milestones during Al’s command tour, commission-ing USS CHEYENNE, the 62″d and last of the 688 class SSNs, USS LOUISIANA, the last of 18 TRIDENT-Class SSBNs and USS SEA WOLF, the most capable sea-control submarine in the world. Al would later be the Commodore of Submarine Squadron 16 in Kings Bay, Georgia
- CDR Mark Myers would relieve as PAR CHE CO in 1997, and command her through several deployments during which he perfected his cribbage skills … Apparently he also managed to improve the cribbage performance of his COB, Master Chief Mo Pollack while the ship earned its 7•h and sh NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION, and 81h PRESIDENTIAL UNIT COMMENDATION. After his command tour, I repeatedly crossed paths with Mark in my role as the PARCHE resource sponsor at OPNA V and in his current assignment as the DEVRON Five Commodore. Mark has been instrumental in the successful modification of the JIMMY CARTER (SSN 23). The contributions of he and his staff have ensured that JIMMY CARTER will be ready to serve when she arrives in the Pacific Northwest in the near future. Entries into the Submarine Force almanac continued throughout Mark’s tour as well: USS CONNECTICUT was commissioned in 1998, and USS VIRGINIA’s keel was laid in September 1999.
- In July 2000 while we commemorated 100 years of “Silent Service”, CDR Mark Gorenflo relieved as Commanding Officer. PAR CHE deployed in the spring of 2001 to earn its 9th Navy Unit Commendation. While in command, Advanced Rapid COTS Insertions and other modernization installations are occurring throughout the fleet, helping to sustain our acoustic advantage over rising submarine threats throughout the world.
- In a twist of irony certainly not lost on the crowd here today, nearly 30 years after CDR Richard Charles took command, CDR Charles Richard said “I relieve you”, and took the reins of this fine ship. Since September 2001, under Chas’ command, PARCHE continued her legacy of excellence. He and the PARCHE crew deployed twice, earning a tenth Navy Unit Commendation and, presented today, a phenomenal 9th Presidential Unit Citation …
To round out the historical timeline marked already by today’s milestone event, just a few weeks ago, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle attended the keel laying ceremony for USS HAW All (SSN 776) (the third VIRGINIA) as the ship’s sponsor, Mrs. Linda Robb will commission the USS VIRGINIA in the same role in just 96 hours, and in a matter of months, the USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN 23) will be commissioned and make a homeport shift to Bangor.
Truly Remarkable. I refrain from using the phrase “Unbelievable” because I have worked with submariners far too long to know that they can achieve anything. Still, many of you may wonder how PARCHE has been able to perform so well for so long.
COMMITMENT: Navy leadership has long understood the value that PARCHE plays in our nation’s defense, and has always been committed to providing the proper resources, manpower and training. That unwavering support for the PARCHE crew and Commanding Officer, supporting shipyard personnel and DEVRON 5 has enabled their close cooperation and teamwork so essential to mission accomplishment. Which brings me to the second essential element of PARCHE’s success:
LEADERSHIP: PARCHE has undoubtedly benefited from strong commanding officers, Chiefs and Officers. Each has been committed to mission accomplishment, communicated their vision, and provided their personnel the tools and roadmap to carry out their orders. (A staggering number who went on to be Chiefs or commissioned officers in our Navy)
TEAMWORK: Each sailor and officer, and each shipyard worker and resource sponsor knows that their contribution to the PAR CHE project is essential to mission success. In this era of high priced athletics, analogies to sports are often used to relate the importance of teamwork to businesses and warfighting: Well, I am from Massachusetts, and I can tell you that not even the New England Patriots with their long streak of wins, or the now resurgent Boston Red Sox can hold a candle to the PARCHE team.
UNCOMPROMISING STANDARDS: For our submarines to be proficient at the myriad of mission taskings assigned, a submarine commanding officer, his command leadership, and entire crew must endeavor to do it right the first time. Getting the ‘little things’ right, day in and day out, wartime or peace, at-sea or in port keeps us on track with our priorities toward achieving the stated goal, Winning. Supervisors enforcing a commanding officer’s high standards throughout all facets of ship operations -in the engine room, in the control room and in the classroom -enables a crew to perform at peak efficiency and effectiveness by preventing the diversion of personnel and resources required to re-perform inadequate workmanship .
PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCY: You either have it or you don’t, and it comes as a result of applying the 4 traits -really behaviors -I already mentioned. Demonstrating it under pressure when, to use a metaphor, it’s 4°’ and long with the clock ticking down is a measure of how well a crew has made a habit of these essential traits for success.
Well PARCHE, you performed superbly under pressure for 30 years to establish a “Tradition of Excellence”. Combat crews throughout the fleet should emulate your habits.
Our ship’s motto on RICHARD B. RUSSELL (SSN 687), as the last built of the STURGEON class, was “They saved the best for last.” … But in truth, that motto truly belongs to PARCHE, as both the last and the best.
The label of “The Best” also applies to all the members of the extended PARCHE team.
Barry Devine and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard folks, many of whom came from Mare Island when the ship relocated to Bangor, consistently achieved peak operational readiness to support critical national level tasking deployments year in and year out. You have been the pit crew for a winning submarine for over thirty years, and I personally thank you for your outstanding efforts. Please stand and be recognized. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause to recognize our Puget Sound and Mare Island Naval Shipyard personnel.
JIMMY CARTER will be lucky to have your expertise and dedication in the coming years.
And finally, I want to recognize the PARCHE families -you endured countless days without your husbands as they prepared PAR CHE for missions. You paid the bills, raised the kids, even coached a few basketball games while your husbands deployed in the nation’s defense. Your steadfast support, continuous motivation to your spouses, brothers and other PAR CHE families enabled the ship to operate successfully for over 30 years. As the Force Commander, I am indebted to you. Your efforts and those of other Navy spouses and families are the enduring foundation of our Naval Heritage. You have, and will continue to sustain our efforts abroad as we face more growing challenges around the globe. Please stand to be recognized. Thank you.
PARCHE has clearly lives up to the motto of the first ship to bear the name: “Par Excellence”.
Symbolizing the true essence of our nation-Ingenuity, Boldness, Confidence and Love of Freedom, each PARCHE crew has unfailingly lived up to the standard set by Medal of Honor Recipient and famous CO of the first submarine named PARCHE, Red Ramage. Joan Ramage, your father would be bursting with pride if he were with us today.
Before I relinquish the Podium, I’d like to read a message from our CNO, ADM Vern Clark to the officers and crew of PARCHE:
SUBJ: USS PARCHE SSN 683 DECOMMISSIONING
1. WITH THE DECOMMISSIONING AND INACTIVATION OF USS PARCHE (SSN 683) ON 19 OCT, WE WRITE THE FINAL CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF AN EXTRAORDI-NARY UNITED STA TES NA VY SUBMARINE. FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, PARCHE AND HER PROUD CREW COMPLETED THE SUBMARINE FORCE’S MOST DE-MANDING OPERATIONS, EARNING PARCHE A DE-SERVED PLACE AMONG OUR NAVY’S MOST DECO-RATED UNITS.
2. THROUGHOUT THE COLD WAR AND THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, PARCHE HAS EPITOMIZED THE SILENT SERVICE IN DELIVERING MISSION SUCCESS WITH QUIET DIGNITY AND PRIDE. PARCHE CREWS EARNED THEIR BOAT AN UNPARALLELED RECORD OF EXCELLENCE DURING FORWARD DEPLOYMENTS, WHILE THEIR FAMILIES PROVIDED SELFLESS SUPPORT AND ENDURED LONG AND VIRTUALLY COMPLETE SEPARATIONS AT HOME. PARC HE CREWS COMPLETED THEIR ASSIGNED TASKING WITH COURAGE AND COMMITMENT AND HA VE MADE A LASTING CONTRI-BUTION TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.
3. PARCHE WAS NAMED IN HONOR OF THE WORLD WAR II FLEET SUBMARINE COMMANDED BY MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT V ADM RED RAMAGE. SHE WAS COMMISSIONED IN AUGUST 1974 AND ENTERED SERVICE AS THE 34rn OF 37 STURGEON CLASS NUCLEAR-POWERED A TT ACK SUBMARINES. THE CREWS WHO SAILED P ARCHE AND THE DEDICATED PROFESSIONALS THAT SUPPORTED HER AT MARE ISLAND AND PUGET SOUND NAVAL SHIPYARDS CONTINUED THE PROUD LEGACY OF HER NAMESAKE AND SECURED FOR SSN 683 HER OWN HONORED PLACE IN HISTORY.
4. WITH THE FINAL LOG ENTRY SECURING THEW ATCH, PARCHE’S EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE TO THIS NATION COMES TO AN END. WE CELEBRATE HER LONG AND DISTINGUISHED CAREER AND RECOGNIZE HER AS THE LAST REMAINING SUBMARINE OF A CLASS THAT SERVED OUR GREAT NATION WlTH TRUE DISTINCTION.
I EXTEND HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CURRENT CREW AND ALL WHO SAILED ABOARD THIS FINE WARSHIP. YOUR NA VY AND YOUR NATION THANK YOU. WELL DONE!
ADMIRAL VERN CLARK SENDS
Well done, PARCHE. Your spirit and accomplishments will never be forgotten. May God bless you all and may God bless America.