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Lieutenant Commander Joel Ira Holwitt

LCDR Holwitt R

Joel Ira Holwitt is the fourth Executive Officer of our boat: USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784). As such he is the second in command. He received a doctorate in history from Ohio State University in 2005. During his graduate work he wrote Execute Against Japan – The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare during World War II. It was well received as the immediate past Chief of Naval Operations and the Naval War College included it as one of the eighteen essential books in the Navy’s 2012 Professional Reading Program. I reviewed it for The Bismarck Tribune, so I will write another blog post with a link to the review when it is published.

A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Holwitt earned his commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 2003.  His operational assignments began as a division officer on board USS Houston (SSN 713), based out of Apra Harbor, Guam, where he completed six missions vital to national security during three Guam mission cycles in the Western Pacific.  He served his department head tour as Navigator/Operations Officer on board USS New Mexico (SSN 779), based out of Groton, Connecticut.  While his boat was in Post-Shakedown Availability at Electric Boat, he also served on temporary assignment as Navigator/Operations Officer on board USS Missouri (SSN 780).

Ashore, Lieutenant Commander Holwitt served as the Navy Fellow in the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Group in Washington, DC. He subsequently served as an Assistant Nuclear Officer Program Manager at OPNAV N133 in the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC.

Holwitt’s personal awards include the Navy Commendation Medal (two awards), the Army Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (three awards). He has served on board units that earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy “E” ribbon, and the Navy Expeditionary Medal.

He and his wife, the former Avery Moss of East Lyme, Connecticut, have four children, Lance, Gavin, Viviane, and Alexandra.  In his book Holwitt writes, “I am truly fortunate to have gotten to know the legendary Captain Slade Cutter and his kind wife, Ruth, as well as Captain Lee Moss, his wonderful wife, Holly, and their exuberant daughter Avery.  They inspired and mentored me as I began my journey as a naval officer and a naval historian.  And more importantly, no one could have imagined that I would be eventually married to that gorgeous and still-exuberant daughter!  I can’t wait to meet her and him.


Two members of the crew of our boat USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784) made a namesake visit to our state this the week of July 11th -15th, 2016.  Ensign Dennen Miner, Supply Corps:


and Machinist Mate Second Class Robin Brooks Anderson:


The USS North Dakota Committee hosted these men.  Dave Johnston, a USS North Dakota Committee member and President of the North Dakota Council of the United States, and Navy League members Dave Rice and Jerry Rostad, made all of the arrangements for their visit in Fargo.  The events included on air interviews with Joel Heitkamp of News and Views on the Mighty 790 KFGO AM and with Scott Hennen on What’s On Your Mind on KFYR 550 AM Radio.  They also were interviewed by the Forum of Fargo resulting in this story picked up by Undersea Warfare News:

USS North Dakota Nuclear Submarine Crew Visit North Dakota
Helmut Schmidt, Forum, July 13
FARGO – Two crew members of the USS North Dakota have surfaced in Fargo.
Ensign Dennen Miner and Machinists Mate Auxiliary 2nd Class Robin Anderson are the latest members of the nuclear-powered attack submarine’s crew to make a “namesake trip” to the state to foster better relations and meet people.
They’re diving into a whirlwind tour of the Fargo area.
“I’m just excited to be able to see various aspects of the state itself. I’ve never been to North Dakota,” Anderson said Tuesday, July 12. “It’s beautiful here.”
Miner looks forward to seeing the home of the North Dakota State University Bison football team.
“I’m a big football guy. So having watched NDSU really dominate football for the past couple years, It’s really exciting for me to see the football center and the college itself,” Miner said.
Miner has also been charmed by the green of the Red River Valley.
“I was impressed flying low over the farmlands,” he said. “You just look out. They really do mean strength from the soil when you look at North Dakota. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Tuesday consisted of stops at various media outlets, closing the day out by throwing out the first pitch at a  Red Hawks baseball game.
Wednesday, July 13, will include trips to farms and NDSU’s agricultural research departments, and a trip to the Microsoft campus to see one of the city’s technology centers.
Anderson reported to the USS North Dakota in November 2012 when it was half assembled. He is an auxiliary mechanic and deals with all systems outside of the nuclear propulsion system.
His division is responsible for more than 7,000 pieces of equipment “and we are expected to be the systems experts,” Anderson said. “We are system experts in seawater systems, high-pressure and low-pressure air systems, hydraulics, plumbing potable water, diesel engine, atmosphere purification and oxygen generation.”
Miner came aboard in November 2015. He’s the second supply officer for the ship. He’s responsible for food, fuel, spare parts and all the other items that are needed to keep the crew and vessel operating efficiently.
Anderson is originally from the Denver area. In his 20s, he attended several colleges and tried starting a music career in Nashville, Tenn., worked as a sheriff’s deputy, and later became an emergency medical technician. He joined the Navy in April 2012.
Minor grew up in Norfolk, Va., the son of a Navy submariner.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and a law degree from the College of William and Mary School of Law in Williamsburg, Va., then spent time as a prosecutor, before deciding that law was not the life for him.

Other events included throwing out the 1st pitch at the Red Hawks baseball game.

They also spoke to the 3rd Quarter Membership Meeting of the North Dakota Council of the Navy League.  President Dave Johnston welcomed them.


Navy Leaguers enjoyed their remarks at their noon luncheon meeting.






Commander Mike Hollenbach, the Commanding Officer of USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784), has given us an update about our boat.  He reports she is in the hands of General Dynamics Electric Boat at the shipyard in Groton CT where she is undergoing Post-commissioning Shipyard Availability to get her equipped with all of the latest updates before she returns to the active Navy and real world assignments.

Commander Hollenbach writes: “The onset of 2016 has definitely provided some busy times for the NORTH DAKOTA.  For starters, we continue to experience a rather large and dramatic turnover of crew members, especially in the Wardroom and Chief’s Quarters.  Over a typical submarine life cycle, it is desired to space out the rotation of crew members so that about 25-35 percent of the crew turns over each year.  However, it takes a while to achieve the desired balance.  With NORTH DAKOTA still being relatively close to the Commissioning, many of our crew members reported right around the same time.  This means they are all due to rotate around the same time and it will take another year or two to stagger out all the reliefs and achieve the optimum rotation.”  He notes “It is a huge testament to the success of NORTH DAKOTA that so many of our officers are continuing with their Naval careers and will do great things in the future.”

As for other events in the Groton area Commander Hollenbach writes “the annual Dolphin Scholarship fundraiser was held last week.  The dress up theme for the event was Mad Men – 60’s Cocktail Party.  I have attached several photos of the NORTH DAKOTA from the event.”

Wardroom members at the event:


Left to Right: LTJG Mike Vongonten, LTJG Brian Acquaviva, LTJG Greg Pavone, LTJG Saverio Maldari, LT Brad Bersin, ENS Dustin Miner, LT Jim Kelly, LCDR Cameron Aljilani (XO), CDR Mike Hollenbach (CO), LTJG Dave Mann, LT Justin McCorkle

Wardroom, CPO Quarters attendees and all the spouses/dates (too many to name):


Commander Hollenbach notes the next large event in Groton is the Annual Submarine Birthday Ball, which will be held in the Grand Ballroom at Foxwoods Casino on April 2nd.




Someone has asked me who needs a 1st coin.  If you have one you would like to sell this person let me know.



Our USS North Dakota Committee is closing out all of the commemorative merchandise we had to build up to the commissioning of our boat USS NORTH DAKOTA (USS-784) last October 25, 2014.  The only merchandise we have left are commemorative coins.  As you know we ordered four different commemorative coins, quite a few in bronze and a limited number of each in Sterling silver.  This photo is of all four coins in bronze, with the 5th coin all by itself being the reverse side of all four coins.


The 1st coin has the crest of the 1st USS NORTH DAKOTA (BB-29).  The 2nd coin has the image of our beautiful Ship’s Sponsor, Katie Fowler.  The 3rd coin has the crest of the 2nd USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-74).  The 4th coin has the image of the Commissioning Pennant noting our boat’s commissioning date of October 25, 2014.  The reverse side of all four coins has the image of our boat with the North Dakota state flag in the background.  These coins originally sold for $20 each, but we are now selling sets of all four coins for $15.  We have 59 sets left.

On the Sterling coins we only have 35 of the 3rd coin and only 42 of the 4th coin left.  These originally sold for $100 each, but we are selling them at the close out price of $50 each. 

This a photo of the 3rd coin in Sterling silver:


This is a photo of the 4th coin in Sterling silver:


We sold quite a few coins in Dickinson on Tuesday, January 26th, at the Dickinson Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute.  This is photo of me, Bob Wefald, selling coins after the ASPI meeting:





The commanding Officer of USS NOTH DAKOTA (SSN-784) Commander Mike Hollenbach at a January 13th morning  meeting of the Executive Committee of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce presented Chamber President Kelvin Hulett with a ship’s plaque, a photo and a letter of thanks.  The presentation was made on behalf of Commander Hollenbach and his crew by USS North Dakota Committee Chairman Bob Wefald.   The occasion for the presentation was the departure of Hulett from his position with the Chamber to a new job at the Bank of North Dakota.  As President of the Chamber Hulett contributed significantly to the accomplishment of our goal of having a second ship named for the state of North Dakota, and of reaching diligently to assure very successful events surrounding the commissioning of our boat!

Kelvin accepts the ship’s plaque.


Reading the letter from Commander Hollenbach.


The iconic photo of NOTH DAKOTA coming out of the hangar after her final build.



Commander Mike Hollenbach, Commanding Officer of USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN-784) has announced that two members of his crew have not only been selected as Sailor of the Year and Junior Sailor of the Year for USS NORTH DAKOTA, but they have both also been selected as Sailor of the Year and Junior Sailor of the Year for Squadron FOUR, consisting of seven VIRGINIA Class submarines and two LOS ANGELES Class submarines.

Hollenbach told the USS North Dakota Committee, “I wanted to take a quick moment to pass along some fantastic news for the USS NORTH DAKOTA.” He said Petty Officer First Class David Evers, a Nuclear Machinist Mate, was chosen as NORTH DAKOTA Sailor of the Year and Petty Officer Second Class Robin Anderson, an Auxiliary Machinist Mate, and was chosen as NORTH DAKOTA Junior Sailor of the Year. Hollenbach added, ”But now for the really good news – Commander of Submarine Squadron FOUR chose both NORTH DAKOTA sailors as the as Sailor of the Year and Junior Sailor of the Year for the entire Submarine Squadron.” Both will also go on to the next round of competition for the entire Groton area.

MM1(SS) David W. Evers IV, from Virginia, enlisted in the Navy in March 2008. After completing various Navy schools including Nuclear Field Machinist Mate ‘A’ School, Nuclear Power School, and Nuclear Prototype Qualification, he held several assignments before reporting aboard NORTH DAKOTA in 2012. According to Hollenbach. “Evers expertly guided his division and the ship through reactor plant acceptance testing and builder’s sea trials, directly contributing to the ship’s receipt of the Squadron FOUR Red Engineering ‘E’.”

MM1 Evers, David

MM2(SS) Robin B. Anderson was born in Colorado and enlisted in the Navy in April 2012. He completed Basic Enlisted Submarine School and Auxiliary Package School before reporting aboard NORTH DAKOTA in November 2012 as a member of Auxiliary Division. Hollenbach noted, “During NORTH DAKOTA’s construction he volunteered to deploy with USS GEORGIA (SSGN 729) on a mission vital to national security in 2013.” Upon returning to NORTH DAKOTA he rapidly qualified for duties including Pilot/Co-Pilot and Duty Chief.

MM3 Anderson, Robin