Author Archives: bobwefald


It’s not too late to send cookies and cards to the crew of our boat USS NORTH DAKOTA! Carol Schwenk reports that so far she has delivered 9 boxes of cookies and two bunches of cards. She is hoping more will arrive this week as Christmas is fast approaching.

As you can see, our crew is happily receiving some North Dakota LOVE in the form of cookies and cards!

Cookies for the crew

Ship your cookies and cards to: USSND, c/o Carol Schwenk, 24 Osprey Drive,
Gales Ferry, CT 06335.





With Christmas baking underway all across North Dakota and this great nation this is your chance to share some love with the crew of our USS NORTH DAKOTA. Our USSND Committee has launched a campaign called “Cookies for the Crew,” the goal of which is to ring some love to the sailors, chiefs and officers of our boat by sharing with them some of our baking. You can bake your favorite cookies or candies and send them to our USSND Committee member in the Groton area, Carol Schwenk. Use this address:

USSND, c/o Carol Schwenk, 24 Osprey Drive, Gales Ferry CT 06335


Dave Johnston, the President of the North Dakota Council of the Navy League of the United States, organized a group to bake and ship twelve boxes of cookies. And I made and shipped two batches of microwave Peanut Brittle today.

So if you want to bake and share some cookies with the men who man our boat, now is the time to spring into action! Help out – you’ll be glad you did!


USS North Dakota Change Of Command

On Thursday, November 9th, USS NORTH DAKOTA held a Change of Command. Commander Mark Robinson relieved Commander Mike Hollenbach as Commanding Officer. Our first Commanding Officer Captain Doug Gordon attended the ceremony. Our USS North Dakota Committee hosted a dinner on Wednesday evening, November 8th. CAPT Gordon and his wife Christie, CDR Hollenbach and his wife Heather, CDR Robinson and his wife Andrea, the Executive Officer LCDR Joel Holwitt and his wife Avery joined USSND Committee Members Bill Butcher, Carol Schwenk and Bob Wefald as well as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum. The Governor and First Lady on that Wednesday afternoon had a full tour of our boat.

The Change of Command was held in the Sub Base theater and was executed in the traditional manner of such a ceremony. Governor Burgum gave brief and heart felt remarks as he recalled his father’s service in the Navy during World War II. A proclamation he had signed was read by the Executive Officer who was the Master of Ceremonies.


Governor Burgum presents his Proclamation to Commander Hollenbach


CDR Hollenbach returns the salute of the side boys as he departs.


CDR Robinson as the Commanding Officer of USS NORTH DAKOTA (USS-784) returns the salute of the side boys as he departs.



Photos were taken at a reception after the Change of Command. From L to R: CAPT Doug Gordon, CDR Mike Hollenbach, Frist Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, CDR Mark Robinson.


Our 1st CO CAPT Doug Gordon recently completed a tour of duty in England and he is now teaching at the Naval War College. Commander Hollenbach is going to be working at the Pentagon. CDR Robinson is a 2000 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. After graduation he attended Navy Diver, Nuclear Power and Submarine training.  CDR Robinson’s career has included service on USS CONNECTICUT (SSN-22, USS NEW HAMPSHIRE (SSN-778), and USS HAWAII (SSN-776). CDR Robinson and his wife Andrea have three sons Sean, Connor and Ethan.

For the first half of 2018 our boat is going to be training and working for deployment in the last half of 2018.  USS NORTH DAKOTA has completed its post commissioning shipyard availability and has successfully tested all of its weapons so it is now ready to fully begin it rotations of deployments throughout the course of its expected 32 years of service life expectancy.



The USS North Dakota Family Readiness Group (FRG) is going to submit an order for more USS NORTH DAKOTA blankets, so this is your chance to get a great gift for someone special, ut you have to act quickly.



The FRG of the USS North Dakota is taking orders for blankets displaying the seal of the USS North Dakota. Each blanket is made in the USA. They are 100% soft acrylic and they measure 54” by 72”. The cost of the blanket is $50 without personalization and $51 with personalization (up to 18 characters including spaces and punctuation). The cost to ship to your home is $17.45 per blanket. Shipping to the FRG for local pick up is FREE. The minimum order for FRG blankets is 12. Once the amount is reached, we will place the orders immediately. It takes 8 – 10 weeks to get your blankets, so we want to order right away! Don’t forget upcoming ceremonies and holidays! This is also a perfect gift for family members!

Buyers Information:

Name: _______________________________________________________________________

Address: _____________________________________________________________________


Phone: _______________________________________________________________________

Email: _______________________________________________________________________

*Please use a separate form if shipping to more than one address (if local pick up, please specify)*

Order Information: Please print neatly!

Blanket # Personalized? Up to 18 Characters Qty. Price Per Blanket
Ex. 1 Yes USS N Dakota FRG 1 $51.00

The characters available for personalization are A-Z, Parenthesis ( ), Slash ( / ), Quotation Marks (“”), and Apostrophe (‘). They cannot do periods, commas, dashes ( – ), and the numbers 6 – 9 or the ampersand (&).

Total cost of plain blanket(s) ordered: $______

Total cost of personalized blanket(s) ordered: $______

Shipping cost ($17.45 per blanket unless shipping to the FRG, then $0): $______

Total amount (please make checks payable to North Dakota FRG): $______

Mail order form to North Dakota FRG, 130 Michigan Dr, Groton, CT, 06340

Question? Please contact any of the board members or email:

Click on this link and you should be able to print an order form:

Blanket Order Form

USS NORTH DAKOTA’s Executive Officer Wins First Prize

I just read the great news this morning in the October issue of Naval History that our USS NORTH DAKOTA’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Joel Holwitt, was awarded the First Prize of $5,000 in the “professional historian category” of the U.S. Naval Institute’s inaugural CNO Naval History Essay Contest! His excellent and thought provoking essay in the current issue is entitled “Recapturing the Interwar Navy’s STRATEGIC MAGIC.” It can be found at:

The editor’s On Our Scope column on page 2 of the magazine featured LCDR Holwitt’s  photo at sea on our boat proudly wearing his USS NORTH DAKOTA ballcap. SCOPE-so17 He finished first out of the 292 essays submitted. We are all really proud of you! Congratulation! Way to go!

Aside from the enormous amount of work preparing and submitting his essay took while he was performing his duties as Executive Officer, I am not surprised. Joel holds a PhD in History from Ohio State University and is the author of Execute Against Japan – The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. Here is a link to my book review of Joel’s book published in The Bismarck Tribune on  August 7, 2016:

XO Senate

Lieutenant Commander Holwitt earlier this year was given the honor of briefly addressing both our State Senate and our State House of Representatives to bring them up to date on our USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784).






U.S. Navy [USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784)] Fires First Tomahawk Cruise Missiles From New Submarine Payload Tubes

Raytheon, PR Newswire, July 18

Upgrades to Virginia-class, fast attack subs will greatly enhance their firepower

TUCSON, Ariz. – For the first time, the U.S. Navy test fired two Raytheon (NYSE: RTN)-built Tomahawk cruise missiles from new submarine payload tubes on the Virginia-class USS North Dakota (SSN-784). The tests, in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida, proved the submarine’s ability to load, carry and vertically launch Tomahawk missiles from the new Block III Virginia Payload Tube. The upgraded tubes feature fewer parts and will be even more reliable.

In addition to the new payload tubes, the Navy is also developing a new Virginia Payload Module. The new modules will triple the number of Tomahawk missiles that Virginia-class submarines can carry, dramatically increasing each sub’s firepower.

“As the Navy continues to modernize its subs, Raytheon continues to modernize Tomahawk, keeping this one-of-a-kind weapon well ahead of the threat,” said Mike Jarrett, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems vice president. “Today’s Tomahawk is a far cry from its predecessors and tomorrow’s missile will feature even more capability, giving our sailors the edge they need for decades to come.”

The U.S. Navy continues to upgrade the Tomahawk Block IV’s communications and navigation capabilities, while adding a multi-mode seeker so it can hit high-value moving targets at sea. These modernized Tomahawks are on track to deploy beginning in 2019 and will be in the U.S. Navy inventory beyond 2040.

Fired in combat more than 2,300 times, Tomahawk cruise missiles are used by U.S. and British forces to defeat integrated air defense systems and conduct long-range precision strike missions against high-value targets. Surface ships and other classes of submarines can carry more than 100 Tomahawks when needed.


This photo is the “Welcome Abroad” photo given to visitors to our boat.USSND Welcome Aboard

Lieutenant Commander Joel Holwitt, the Executive Officer of USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784) made a namesake visit to North Dakota on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 14th and 15th.  He came to Bismarck to make remarks to each chamber of our Legislature, an honor rarely granted.  He did an excellent job briefing first the House of Representatives and then the Senate on the status of their boat.  Here he is speaking to the House of Representatives.

XO House

And here he is speaking to the Senate.

XO Senate

Lieutenant Commander Holwitt also visited with Governor Burgum and presented him with a ship’s plaque.

XO Governor

Visits with Attorney general Wayne Stenehjem and Secretary of State Al Jaeger were followed by a visit to the State Historical Society and Claudia Berg.

Tuesday evening LCDR Holwitt spoke to the North Dakota Council of the Navy League of the United States.

XO Navy League

On Wednesday LCDR Holwitt spoke to an assembly of high school AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students from Bismarck High School and Century High School, followed by a visit with students in an AVID class.

The high school visit was followed by a visit with a 7th grade robotics classroom at Simle Middle School.

XO 7th graders

At noon on Wednesday Holwitt spoke to the Bismarck Rotary Club with a very lively and engaging question and answer session.

His day ended with an excellent presentation at the Bismarck State College Energy Center on the types of technical distance learning that could be developed and used by the Navy through BSC.