U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today honored the commissioning of the Navy’s newest submarine, the USS South Dakota. The commissioning will take place Saturday, February 2, 2019, in Groton, Connecticut. In 2012, Thune led South Dakota’s congressional delegation in requesting the Navy name its next attack submarine the USS South Dakota.
Thune’s speech below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to mention the commissioning of the Navy’s newest Virginia-class attack submarine, the USS South Dakota, which will occur this Saturday, February 2, 2019, in Groton, Connecticut.
“The USS South Dakota will be the 17th submarine of her class, pushing the envelope of U.S. maritime technology and undersea dominance.
“We are proud that the state of South Dakota will once again be represented in the fleet by this engineering marvel, which will project America’s strength and protect our national interests throughout the maritime domain and beyond.
“In March 2012, I led the South Dakota delegation, which then included Senator Tim Johnson and Congresswoman Kristi Noem, in writing Secretary of the Navy Mabus to request that the Navy name its next attack submarine USS South Dakota.
“I join them and all South Dakotans in saying we are excited to see this honor come to fruition.
“The South Dakota will build off the legacy of her forebears, a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser that served as a troop escort in World War I and a battleship that was one of the most decorated battleships in World War II.
“The battleship South Dakota was a proud representative of the 68,000 South Dakotans who answered their country's call to serve in the war, earning 13 battle stars in the Pacific Theater.
“South Dakota led with her nine 16-inch guns in the battles of the Santa Cruz Islands and Guadalcanal, earning a reputation as a fighting machine by defending U.S. aircraft carriers and disabling the enemy’s.
“In her second Pacific tour, the South Dakota supported Marine landings on the Marshall Islands with shore bombardments, before joining the Battle of the Philippine Sea and fighting through a bomb hit to defend our fast carriers.
“As information on U.S. military action was limited at the time, she was often referred to as Battleship X and Old Nameless.
“The submarine South Dakota will continue this distinguished tradition of service, and as is the nature of the submarine force, the accomplishments of this new boat and her crew may be even more secretive than those of her battleship predecessor.
“In fact, it could be decades until we can fully appreciate all South Dakota might do in her service life.
“We may very well read about her exploits in a sequel to Blind Man’s Bluff, the daring account of early U.S. submarine espionage and power projection.
“Because of the nature of their work, Mr. President, the so-called silent service is often an undersung hero of the U.S. military.
“I’ve certainly never seen a submarine at an air show or coming down Main Street in a parade.
“The nature of the sub force’s mission is as secretive as it is high stakes.
“But at any given moment, the U.S. submarine force is patrolling the depths of the ocean and monitoring littoral waters for threats against our nation and our allies.
“South Dakota will project power at sea and ashore with her payload of torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can be delivered without warning.
“Undetected, she will carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces, strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mine warfare, all while keeping adversaries on their toes.
“And Mr. President, while Saturday will be a time for our Navy and the country to celebrate this milestone, South Dakota won’t just be talked about here at home.
“Around the world, our adversaries are taking note, as this submarine will further strengthen our global presence and ability to protect the interests of the U.S. and our allies.
“Our adversaries are already undertaking significant efforts to challenge U.S. military capabilities and international order.
“While they can try to copy our designs, mimic our operational concepts, or even try to replicate the way we train, one thing they will never be able to imitate is our people.
“The commissioning crew has proven its aptitude and professionalism in the months leading up to this point.
“The men and women of our submarine force, like those serving in the ranks across the Department of Defense, are the root of America’s military strength.
“As Americans, we are grateful for all who have answered the call to serve and the families that support them, especially those that endure months apart during long deployments.
“The life of a submariner is not easy, nor is it easy for their loved ones.
“We thank them for their sacrifice.
“South Dakota’s complement of 135 talented officers and sailors will put its population in line with that of South Dakota towns like Isabel, Pierpont, and Java.
“Like South Dakota’s rural towns, the USS South Dakota will be a tight-knit community of its own, albeit one uniquely confined to a submersed vessel just over a football field long with a nuclear reactor.
“Mr. President, the indigenous inhabitants and early pioneer settlers of the state of South Dakota instilled a resourceful and resilient ethic in the culture of our state that continues to this day.
“This was driven by the remote, austere, and often unforgiving conditions on the Great Plains.
“I am confident such hardiness will be replicated in each officer and crew member of the South Dakota as they live up to the boat’s motto, which means “Under the sea we rule.”
“And so, Mr. President, as boat sponsor Deanie Dempsey brings the boat to life on Saturday, we thank the officers and crew of the South Dakota for their dedicated service to our country.
“May God bless the USS South Dakota and keep watch over her as she patrols the seas.”