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New Commander of Submarine Forces Tells Sailors ‘Prepare for Battle’

Vice Adm. Charles A. Richard, the incoming commander of Submarine Forces, walks through the side boys during the Submarine Forces change of command ceremony aboard the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Washington (SSN-787) in Norfolk, Va. on Aug. 3, 2018. US Navy Photo

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.”

  • Ed L

    Amen, to my brother at Newport News, build those SSN’s faster

    • NavySubNuke

      Let’s just keep building them on time and with high quality —- keep taking the time to build them right!
      I personally think we need our SSNs right now more than at any time than in Dec 1941. It is going to take years for the surface fleet to sort itself out and – in the words of metro – get back to good. It is up to the sub force to buy them that time.

  • Sons of Liberty

    US Sub Service at 24k active is larger than most NATO Navies.

    • Duane

      The 24,000, according to the statement made by the new commander, is combined uniformed, civilian and contractors and reservists. Although the statement is a little bit vague.

      The uniformed members on active assignment to operating boats would add up to approximately 12,000 more or less … consisting of two crews each of 155 on the 18 Ohio class, and 48 SSNs averaging about 130-135 members each.

      Additional qualified active duty sub crew are rotated to shore duty at various command centers, NR, NAVSEA, the sub bases and tenders, staffing the training and support facilities, and going through various schools, etc. Plus reservists.

      Apparently that adds up to the other 12,000.

  • Sons of Liberty

    US Sub Service at 24k active is larger than most NATO Navies.

    FR :36k
    RN: 33k
    MM: 31k
    DM: 16k

    • NavySubNuke

      I notice you posted this not once – but twice —- is there a reason you posted it either time?
      At the end of the day the sub force is actually smaller than it needs to be — though hopefully still large enough to ensure we don’t need to fight as the admiral said “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.”

      • tiger

        Uh, who are you fighting MERSK lines? Some Panama flag guy carrying Ipods?

        • NavySubNuke

          Reading comprehension fail — the idea is to be so ready to fight that you don’t have to fight at all.
          I’d rather win 100 battles by not fighting then have to fight and win 100 battles.

          • tiger

            We are supposed to do that already. That is what the pay check is for…… But if they need a pep talk speech, fine….

          • NavySubNuke

            LOL – no worries…. given your comment history I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

          • AmPatriotSmith

            You know I never served in the military but even I knew what Tafalo was referring to.

          • Rocco


          • Rocco


    • Centaurus

      I wonder how many Subs the Mexican Navy has ? Real warfighters, no doubt.

  • NavySubNuke

    Interesting to see a class of 83 guy relieving a class of 82.
    Regardless – to Adm Tofalo — thank you for a job well done and enjoy your retirement.
    To Adm Richards — great work at N97 and STRATCOM now keep up the good work at SUBFOR.
    The Navy needs the SSN force to be ready, willing, and able to fight perhaps more than any other time since December 1941. Our surface brethren have fallen asleep at the wheel for too long and are still trying to get back on the road — it’s up to us to buy them the time to do that and to keep the storms away until they are ready to join us in the fight.

    • Rocco

      We didn’t have Dan’s in 41😂

  • makalapa10

    As son of diesel electric 30 yr comsubpac staff I stand in awe of the tradition of service in silence…

  • Chris Price

    Maybe more importantly…why is the shipmate behind the Admiral saluting with his left hand??

    • publius_maximus_III

      In the USN, unlike other services, you’re allowed to salute with the left hand if your right hand is otherwise occupied. Can’t tell if that is the case here, since that sailor’s right side is obscured by the Admiral. Maybe he’s holding the football?

      • Pat Dougan

        Probably he has a bosons pipe in his right hand for piping the brass aboard.

        • Rocco

          Wrong again!!! You don’t salute while piping!!

      • Rocco

        That’s stupid!! If something is in your hand you put it down & render a proper salute!!

    • Pat Dougan

      Bosons pipe in right hand?

    • Rocco

      Good question!!! A Bosn’ piping the Admiral wouldn’t be Standing there!!

  • publius_maximus_III

    ROLL TIDE!!!