#WARFIGHTING – Submarines: A Community Like No Other

October is #Warfighting month focusing on Navy Warfighters, a fast and flexible force deployed worldwide to preserve peace, protect commerce, and deter aggression on, above, and below the sea. We asked Commander Dave Adams, Commanding Officer of USS Santa Fe, to talk about his perspective of serving onboard a U.S. Navy submarine.

The Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Virginia (SSN 774) cruises through the Mediterranean while on a scheduled deployment within the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman/Released)

Somewhere in the Pacific a periscope breaks the calm glassy water. The Officer of the Deck, Lt. Phil Foster, carefully scans the surface for safety through the optics of the number two periscope. At the same time, his ears are tuned to the electronics intercept receiver to instantly know the different patterns for a commercial ray marine radar or a threat destroyer. His ears are also tuned to the calm, stern voice of his diving officer, MMC Demetrius Hamilton, as he steadily calls off depths, “six one,” “six zero.” The stern plansesman, TM2 Rick Stafford, drives the submarine precisely on depth with just enough periscope out of the water to get a visual picture while limiting the chance of counter-detection. Lt. Foster, a twenty-five year old graduate of the United States Naval Academy (USNA) class of 2008, can instantly sense a change in the diving officer’s voice, or any other member of his team to know that together they must act to maintain USS Santa Fe’s stealth and safety. The entire crew is ready to act, to combat a casualty, and to push the engineering plant to its limit should their ship need to evade an enemy. They wear submarine dolphins with pride. They earned them for demonstrating a thorough knowledge of their boat and by demonstrating extraordinary reliability under stress.

What I describe here is just an average day on a United States Navy Submarine. USS Santa Fe’s mission on this average day may be highly classified, it may be intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance or support of special forces, or exercising the magnificent capabilities of a nuclear fast attack submarine in concert with our allies. Our hope is to deter our enemies but we are prepared to fight hard should deterrence fail. If ordered, we are prepared to deliver a deadly payload of tomahawk missiles or unleash a volley of advanced capability torpedoes to put enemy ships on the bottom and send bad international actors to their graves.

Today’s Submarine Force truly embodies what warfighting means. We train to fight. On USS Santa Fe we seek to capture and honor our warfighting heritage, always conscious of the 55% of enemy shipping our forefathers sank in World War II and the high price of the 52 submarines lost paid in doing so. Our torpedoes run hot, straight and normal, just like they did in that war, and we have fired 87 exercise torpedoes over the past two and a half years to hone our warfighting skills. We routinely conduct strike exercises with our Surface brethren to ensure our ability to employ tomahawk missiles.

We operate forward and walk the battlespace, so that we know our potential adversaries well. USS Santa Fe completed a highly successful Western Pacific deployment last year doing just that. Our Sailors, our warriors, like Lt. Phil Foster, MMC Demetrius Hamilton, and T2 Rick Stafford wear their Navy Unit Commendation and Battle “E” with pride. But they wear their submarine dolphins with even more pride, knowing they are part of something bigger; a tradition of Submariners past, presence, and future who operate forward, always ready, willing and able to be on point, to fight and win against anyone who threatens or acts violently to deny our nation’s people liberty that so many before us have fought to secure.