THE PENTAGON — Vice Adm. Charles A. Richard took over as the commander of U.S. submarine forces during a change of command ceremony held aboard the Virginia-class-attack submarine USS Washington (SSN-787) on Saturday.
Richard relieved Vice. Adm. Joseph Tofalo after serving as the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska.
“To the men and women of the submarine force, prepare for battle,” he during the ceremony, according to a Navy release.
“It is only by being prepared for battle that we can hope to avoid it. If we cannot, our nation expects and demands victory. We shall not fail.”
Richard, in his new role as the commander of Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR), is responsible for ensuring the U.S. Navy’s undersea superiority is unmatched. As the commander of Submarine Force Atlantic he has operational command of all U.S. submarines based on the Atlantic coast, while as the commander of Allied Submarine Command he is the principal advisor to NATO submarine plans.
“We are back in a world in the midst of major power competition. In that competition, our strength undersea is a key advantage that we have,” he said.
“That will not change on my watch. With so much at stake, we cannot let up and must execute our mission with a continued sense of urgency.”
Richard becomes COMSUBFOR during a time of change in the Atlantic. The Navy is reestablishing U.S. 2nd Fleet to face a reemerging Russian naval threat in the North Atlantic. Russia has increased submarine activities, with its fleet now operating at a pace last seen during the Cold War, Navy leaders have said.
During the change of command ceremony, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson commended Tofalo for his work strengthening submarine readiness, according to a Navy statement. Richardson himself is also a former commander of Submarine Forces.
“He has spent every waking moment thinking about how to make our force stronger, ready to sail under the seas and over the horizon, to face any challenge, and to return stronger than when we left,” Richardson said during the ceremony, according to a Navy release.
Richard is a 1982 University of Alabama graduate and a career submariner whose commands have included USS Parche (SSN-683), Submarine Squadron 17 and the decommissioned nuclear deep diving Submarine NR-1. Ashore he served as the director of undersea warfare (OPNAV N97) on the Chief of Naval Operations staff in the Pentagon. He has served as the STRATCOM deputy since September 2016.
Tofalo, who is from upstate New York and a 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, pointed out the change of command occurred on the 60th anniversary of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) mission to the North Pole.
“This ‘top of the world’ historical reference is certainly fitting,” Tofalo said during the ceremony, according to a Navy release. “Because I’m ‘on top of the world’ today, as it has been the honor of my lifetime to command the greatest submarine force the world has ever known. A force made up of 24,000 outstanding active duty, government civilians and reservists, and their families, who combined are only 4 percent of the greater navy, yet operate 25 percent of the Navy’s warships including 70 percent of Nation’s accountable nuclear weapons.”
Tofalo retired from the Navy after more than 35 years of service, following in his parents footsteps. His father too served for 35 years, and his mother was a Navy WAVE, one of the first women in enlisted Navy service. Tofalo commanded USS Maine (SSBN-741) and Submarine Squadron 3 and served multiple times at U.S. Fleet Forces Command and the Chief of Naval Operations staff.
Before retiring, he issued one last challenge to the submarine force.
“To the Sailors and the Force, I challenge you to continue our emphasis on competence and character, relentlessly pursuing your theoretical maximum performance as both individuals and teams,” he said. “I also challenge you to continue to do everything with honesty and integrity. Revel in hard facts and the certitude of being a standards-based organization.”