RADM J. L. Fowler, USN USS Soley
Reunion Banquet Double Tree Plymouth Meeting, PA April 24, 2005
Thanks Gene for the kind introduction/
USS Soley (DD707) . . . I knew about USS Soley before I knew about the Navy. . . . Time and time again I heard many of the stories you have been discussing over the past few days. I heard about eating out of a bowl for three weeks straight during nasty winter Greenland operations-you'll either die of seasickness or be cured forever. I heard about USS Missouri sending shore bombardment over the top of Soley, also conducting shore bombardment during the Korean War. I saw the currency from so many countries around the world. Growing up in North Dakota, I saw the U.S. Navy through one ship-USS Soley (DD707)-she was the Navy in my eyes. // I didn't know about shipmates . . . what it truly means to be a shipmate. All I knew is that my Dad, a small town North Dakota boy, would spend his precious savings to take a family vacation every couple years to see a guy and his family in the suburbs of New York City and another family in a small town in Pennsylvania. And we would continue to make these visits, we going to them, they coming to us-first with children, and then with grand children. Every big event in each of our families was a big event for all of us. Graduations, weddings, births. We were and are family. . . . And today, here we are, together again despite the cost, and for some, health issues to overcome. // Shipmates . . . I don't think Dad used the words, but actions DO speak louder than words. Can you think of any other occupation where the bond is so close? Working, eating, and sleeping together as a family in a confined space, often under significant stress, but serving with people who would give their lives for you. There are still young Sailors who join us today that experience for the first time a caring relationship that they were missing at home-they become shipmates!// I would like to recognize some special shipmates tonight: I don't get a chance to acknowledge Mom and Dad very often, but I am happy that Arlys and Clem Fowler are with us here tonight-still living in Bismarck, North Dakota. Dad volunteered to recommission Soley in 1949 and served on board until 1953 as a BT1. Shipmates Smokey and Pat Olejar, originally from New Jersey acted as my parents away from home when I was on the East Coast and their son John became a brother. Shipmates John and Laura Moats from Pennsylvania are here tonight as well.// So my Dad, Clem Fowler left North Dakota to "Join the Navy and See the World." Five years later he came back with a lifetime full of experiences, which still bring back great memories after more than 50 years. I, too, Joined the Navy to See the World, or as our Navy slogan is today, to "Accelerate Your Life." I left for the U.S. Naval Academy right out of high school in 1974, having never visited Annapolis until I arrived on Induction Day. I planned on seeing more of the country and world, then move on to another career. . . Well, that was 31 years ago, and I am still seeing the world through the eyes of a Sailor. I never intended to stay this long-just taking one tour at a time. I had been in all 50 states before my recruiting position-and I have returned to 46 states since I have been in this job over the last 20 months. I have sailed where Soley sailed, traveling the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, the Arabian Gulf, and Panama Canal. I have steamed a quarter million miles-but all of those underwater! I have spent four years underwater. By the way, I don't think years underwater should count on my age, so I am subtracting them! Without any intention of doing what Dad did, I find that I have visited England, the Netherlands, Gibraltar, Singapore, Japan, and Korea as he did. As with many of you here tonight, we are both Shellbacks, Golden Dragons, members of Order of the Ditch, Order of the Rock, and Order of the Spanish Main. So who is coming behind us? Will our Navy of the next generation be in good hands? Let me tell you two recruiting sea stories: (Here Admiral Fowler told us about 4 members of one family and a young man from another family that enlisted.) Some of you may have heard that Army and Marine Corps recruiting are having a tough time. How about Navy recruiting? We continue to raise the standards our Sailors must possess to operate the high technology ships, aircraft, and submarines of our Navy-we require 95% to have high school diplomas, 70% must score in the upper half of the entrance exam, 15% must have a least one semester of college, and few criminal waivers are accepted. (Sorry Dad, but you might have had a tough time getting into today's Navy!) Yet we have recruits waiting in line to join. How many? Today I have 28,000 future Sailors waiting to go to Great Lakes boot camp-and many of them don't want to wait-but they do because they want to become Sailors. Because our Sailors are reenlisting and signing up for another tour at historically high levels; and our unexpected losses, or attrition as we call it, is very low, we only need to bring in 38,000 Sailors onto active duty this year. So you can see that we have about two-thirds of a year's requirement signed up in advance.// So how can you help Navy recruiting? As you heard tonight, I received first hand stories about the Navy from my Dad. Many of those who sign up have similar stories-a relative (father, uncle, grandfather, etc.) talked about the Navy, so the new generation decided to join. But with our shrinking veteran population, we cannot afford to "grow our own" next generation of Sailors. We need to get those who never considered serving to look into it. I need your help in talking to neighbors, school kids, and others who may have never heard about the Navy and tell them your stories and experiences with your shipmates. And steer them to our internet website for the latest information: www.Navy.com I have some items, pens and pins among others, that have this information printed on them, so you can take them with you and hand them out to those who might be interested in joining the Navy. Many things have changed in our United States Navy. The technology continues to get more sophisticated. Our Sailors continue to be sharper and more capable. But many things remain the same. Our Navy is still operating at the point of the spear, on station ready to respond, without a permission slip, to Sep 11th attacks with firepower against the enemy and to the Christmas tsunami disaster with American generosity of relief aid. Shipmates still take care of shipmates, and remain shipmates for life. As my generation is now standing the watch, and will soon turn over the watch to the next generation, I can assure you that your United States Navy remains the best navy the world has ever seen. I consider you all my shipmates-those who served with distinction in USS Soley. Your stories have become my stories. You make me proud to say I am a United States Navy Sailor. God Bless the United States Navy and this wonderful United States of America. Thank you.