116th Submarine Birthday Ball
Submarines in the Movies: Where Fiction Meets Reality
By LT Mitch Nelson
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 marked the celebration of the 116th Submarine Birthday Ball, hosted by the Northern California Chapter of the Naval Submarine League. The event took place at the Barbara McNitt Ballroom at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, and was filled with camaraderie and promoting the United States submarine legacy. Rolling out the red carpet, the ball’s theme “Submarines in the Movies: Where Fiction Meets Reality” paid homage to submarines on the big screen, while highlighting the dangerous reality of actual submarine operations and the courageous spirit of the submariners who serve onboard. Master of Ceremonies for the evening was LT Mitch Nelson, the Northern California Chapter President, and presenting colors were cadets from “Chesty Puller Battalion” of the U.S. Sea Cadet Corps. With over 220 submariners, supporters, civilians, and international guests in attendance, the ball was very successful in sharing submariner heritage and promoting awareness of the importance of submarines to U.S. national security.
Honoring all lost submarines and brothers on eternal patrol, the “Tolling of the Bells” ceremony was performed by MMCS(SS/SS1) Pete Juhos and MMCM(SS) Charlie Butcher. The Director of Undersea Warfare (N97), RADM “Chas” Richard was the guest speaker and regaled the attendees with the amazing accomplishments achieved over the course of 116 years and four generations of submariners. RADM Richard expressed how submarines evolved from a once fictional dream to the decisive force that it is today, and he described the exciting future that lies ahead. The longest qualified submariner in attendance was TM2(SS) Bernhardt Ritscher, who earned his dolphins on the USS Caiman (SS 323) in 1944 and completed 3 war patrols during WWII. Another WWII veteran in attendance was CAPT Bob Thomas. What a great honor it was to have these gentlemen celebrate with us! The most recently qualified submariner was LT Geoffrey Fastabend, who earned his dolphins on December 17, 2014 on the USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740 – Gold). CAPT Thomas, RADM Richard, and RADM Ekelund joined TM2 Ritscher and LT Fastabend for the cake cutting ceremony. The memorable evening was concluded with dancing, photographs, and a whole lot of submariner pride. The Northern California Chapter of the Naval Submarine League advocates for the submarine force with enthusiasm under the superb guidance of RADM Jerry Ellis, and is already looking forward to hosting the Submarine Birthday Ball next year!