The Navy's 14 ballistic-missile submarines assigned to the Pacific-based Task Force 134 and the Atlantic-based Task Force 144 were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation July 20, recognizing their excellence in strategic deterrence.
Ceremonies honoring the achievements of the submarines and their supporting commands took place in their homeports of Bangor, Wash., and Kings Bay, Ga.
The award was presented on the 52nd anniversary of the Navy's first submerged ballistic missile launch, made by USS George Washington (SSBN 598) July 20, 1960.
"On July 20, 1960, the commanding officer of USS George Washington transmitted his message to President Dwight Eisenhower, 'POLARIS - FROM OUT OF THE DEEP TO TARGET. PERFECT'," said Vice Adm. John Richardson, commander, Submarine Forces. "In many ways,'perfection' is exactly what we still expect from our Strategic Deterrent Submarine Force, even 52 years later. The performance of our people and systems in the SSBN force has delivered what we asked of them: stability and peace.
"At this very moment, they remain submerged and undetected; ready for the call that they hope will never come. In fact it's that readiness - the combination of stealth, skill, vigilance and passion - that has allowed us to sustain a secure and survivable posture that minimizes the possibility that any power will seriously threaten our homeland. It's very fitting that we recognize their efforts with this award," said Richardson.
The award covers the period from July 16, 2007, to January 28, 2011, and recognizes the two task forces and their afloat and ashore units for their support of U.S. Strategic Command's global mission of strategic deterrence.
"For many decades strategic deterrence really meant nuclear deterrence ... because strategic attack really meant nuclear attack on the U.S. or our allies," said Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, U.S. Strategic Command. "The men and women who serve both on SSBNs and in their supporting commands have delivered excellence in U.S. Strategic Command's mission of conducting strategic deterrence for more than 50 years. Their contributions have maintained peace and stability throughout the decades and have kept our nation and her allies safe. I am proud of the accomplishments of these superb professionals. The triad of ballistic missile submarines, ICBMs and nuclear heavy bombers with their associated tankers continue to serve us well."
During the award period, submarines assigned to Task Force 134 and Task Force 144 conducted 119 deterrent patrols, continuing the mission of strategic service begun by George Washington and carried on by the 58 SSBNs which followed.
"The Task Forces provided an essential leg to our nation's strategic triad and were a key element of our deterrent mission," said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, in the award citation. "The deterrence mission executed by Task Force 134 and 144 during this period underpinned Department of Defense strategy and provided the backbone and foundation for our political leadership in execution of national security policy."
The Meritorious Unit Commendation covers the 14 SSBNs and their supporting commands - two submarine groups, two submarine squadrons, two Naval Submarine Support Centers (NSSCs) and individual personnel on the staffs of Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic; and Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet.
"In operating our ballistic missile submarines - each a complex machine that requires the highest levels of technical knowledge, standards, and commitment - these Task Forces and crews delivered the ultimate in strategic deterrence and uninterrupted, survivable, and enduring nuclear strike capability for our nation," said Rear Adm. James F. Caldwell Jr., commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet. "Those of us in this business know all too well that the task of maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent is not an easy one. These crews get very little recognition, but carry the enormous responsibility of being ready every single day throughout the year. This mission remains as important as it ever has been, and today's recognition is very well deserved."
Task Force 134 consists of eight SSBNs - USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730), USS Alabama (SSBN 731), USS Nevada (SSBN 733), USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735), USS Kentucky (SSBN 737), USS Nebraska (SSBN 739), USS Maine (SSBN 741) and USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) - as well as Submarine Group 9, Submarine Squadron 17 and NSSC Bangor.
Task Force 144 is made up of six SSBNs - USS Alaska (SSBN 732), USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), USS West Virginia (SSBN 736), USS Maryland (SSBN 738), USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) and USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) - in addition to Submarine Group 10, Submarine Squadron 20 and NSSC Kings Bay.
That Strategic Guidance issued by President Barack Obama earlier this year listed a primary mission of the armed forces as the ability to "Maintain a Safe, Secure, and Effective Nuclear Deterrent." It states the overarching mission of our strategic forces, "As long as nuclear weapons remain in existence, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal. We will field nuclear forces that can under any circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage, both to deter potential adversaries and to assure U.S. allies and other security partners that they can count on America's security commitments."
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