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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.



Happy Holidays to all the fantastic supporters of the USS NORTH DAKOTA.  From the looks of the weather reports, you’ve had quite the December snow falls out west so far.  We had one slushy day of snow that quickly turned to rain a couple of weeks ago, but since then we’ve pretty much just had a lot of rain.  With respect to the boat and the crew, here is the latest news:

In the best news of 2016, the Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) is finally over.  After 16 months of extremely hard work and long hours by the crew, PSA culminated with a highly successful week-long Sea Trials.  The crew was once again able to demonstrate their skills in operating the submarine, and the boat performed flawlessly in a wide variety of system tests and operations.  The timing was just about perfect, as the PSA completed in December just in time for the crew to take a well deserved holiday stand down.  The two-week rest period over the holidays will allow virtually all crew members to enjoy a week of leave with their families, and return to the NORTH DAKOTA ready for a very busy 2017.

As the first Block III Virginia Class submarine, the first half of 2017 will certainly be busy for the NORTH DAKOTA and her crew.  NORTH DAKOTA will be the test platform for all of the Developmental Testing and Operational Testing for the entire 8 submarine block.  After a brief installation and load out period to install test equipment and temporary systems for the testing, NORTH DAKOTA will spend most of the first half of 2017 at-sea performing acoustic testing, combat systems testing, and weapons launch testing.  Once the months of combat system testing are complete, the crew will complete a round of at-sea inspections to start the deployment preparation period, and the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 will feature the final crew and material readiness preparations for the NORTH DAKOTA’s first six month overseas deployment.

That’s about it for the news on NORTH DAKOTA right now.  I’m looking forward to getting the crew back from holiday stand down, rested and ready for 2017.  We have our holiday party coming up on January 13th, and I know the crew and MWR our very much looking forward to that event.  Hope 2016 was a great year for all of our supporters back in NORTH DAKOTA.  Best wishes for a great 2017 too.


Mike Hollenbach

Commanding Officer, USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN 784)


Our boat and her crew in dry dock at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton CT


Dear Friends of the USS NORTH DAKOTA,

Just wanted to take a few moments and pass along some updates and news from the USS NORTH DAKOTA.  The submarine and crew are looking forward to the completion of the Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA).  Although the PSA has taken longer than expected, the crew has remained in great spirits and has taken advantage of the additional time in port to complete a great deal of training (and some honey-do lists at home).  The crew has performed exceptionally on all certification and readiness examinations and is quite eager to get back underway.  2017 projects to be a very busy year for the USS NORTH DAKOTA.  Once the PSA has concluded, the crew will take the submarine through at-sea proficiency training, acoustic and magnetic trials, and weapons system operational testing to include the first-ever operational test launch of the Virginia Payload Tube.  Once the crew completes all trials and testing, the second half of 2017 will feature inspections, preparation and certification for the ship’s first full length deployment in 2018.

From a personnel standpoint, many great things continue to happen onboard USS NORTH DAKOTA.  2016 featured two of our own selected for promotion to Chief Petty Officer.  The Leading Engineering Laboratory Technician, Chief Petty Officer Reed Cozens, and the Leading Auxiliary Mechanic, Chief Petty Officer Jeffery Jordan, were the two sailors selected for this honored promotion.  These two sailors were pinned as Chief Petty Officers at Historic Fort Trumbull in New London, CT.  On a beautifully sunny day, the ceremony took place on top of the Fort, overlooking the Thames River with Electric Boat Shipyard and the USS NORTH DAKOTA in the background.  The Fiscal Year 2016 Sailor of the Year competition will be concluding shortly and I look forward to announcing the winners, as well as the next Sailor of the Quarter winners, in the coming weeks.  With 2016 coming to an end, we are also seeing the end of a period of high crew turnover onboard the NORTH DAKOTA.  The vast majority of the Plankowners have now completed their tours, and while their experience will be missed, it is an exciting time as well because the majority of the personnel that will make the 2018 deployment are now onboard and beginning to develop together.

 Thanks again for the continued fantastic support.  With the generosity of the North Dakota Committee, the television entertainment systems in the Crews Mess, Chiefs Quarters and Wardroom have all been upgraded.  The Crews Mess upgrades have been especially useful, because the new TV’s now have all the necessary inputs to link the screens together and are a huge asset for crew training and briefings.  Hope everyone out west is enjoying their fall.

All our best,

 Mike Hollenbach

Commanding Officer





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.