"Big Al, the Sailor's Pal..."
Keynote: There's a reason they call him "Big Al"..... He's
big... musta been built when meat was cheap, cause there sure is a lot of him.
As a submariner, the first thing you say to yourself is "Man, I'll bet he
banged his head on a lot of overhead gear in rough seas." The man is slightly
smaller than Oklahoma. But, there is something special about the man.
Wherever Big Al goes, he leaves a wake of total and absolute respect. You don't
find that a lot these days. Raghats are not given to gratuitious compliments
and are painfully accurate in assessing their leadership in conversations among
themselves. It would take a master magician to pull the wool over the eyes of
the United States Navy's enlisted population. They don't sit on selection
boards or authorize awards and heavy chest hardware...but they recognize deep
draft leadership and those in command that they would readilly follow when
going in harms way.
Vice Admiral Al Konetzni has become a household word and enlisted leadership
standard on both coasts. You can't be a closet sonuvabitch and pull that off.
No, Big Al was big, in more ways than physical stature. His career made a
difference. He was, and remains a credit to his shoulder boards. From the
bridge to the lower engine room flats he commanded respect earned by "giving a
damn" about his men. In the heady world of heavyweight command with its
demands, awesome level of reponsibility and rarified air, damn few men take the
time... devote the personal time, this gentleman did to be where his raghats
congregated and to share with them their unique moments of meaningful
remembrance and their celebration of their service.
Big Al was everywhere. He lent his personal touch to the validation of our naval
service. And by so doing, personally touched the happy bastards who "served
aft". Men who wore dungarees have something in common with elephants. We never
forget. And you can bet your goddam thirteen-button blues, we won't forget this
fine officer whose career, as we raghats say, "Is a credit to his hometown,
state, country, himself and most importantly to the Mother who bore him." When
good officers are remembered by old stove-up barnacle-encrusted boatsailors
tossing down beers in the dimly lit gin-mills of the seaports of the world, the
name Konetzni will be fondly remembered and
toasted all around. That Horsefly, is true immortality... Naval immortality.
I would like to leave you with my personal remembrance of the Admiral. Two
years ago, there was a submariner's memorial service in the National Cemetary
at Arlington. It was a rainy, nasty day. Gray, overcast... cold,drizzling
rain... the kind of day, that when the fainthearted roll over and look out the
window, reset the alarm, and go back to sleep. Admirals roll over, look out the
window, think of what the weather will do to the crease in dress canvas trou...
reset the alarm and go back to sleep.
Not Big Al... he could have
graciously bowed out and everyone there would have fully understood. But he was
there. He delivered a stem-winding oration to a very abreviated audience of old
long-ago subvets. WHY? Because, dammit he's a heavy weather sailor and every
sonuvabitch out there in the rain recognized it. He said he would be there, and
he was. That silent statement said more to us than anything some
feathermerchant PR spin manipulator could have cobbled together on his or her
best day. We were just a bunch of sailors in the rain... in the presence of
true leadership in the best American tradition. America can ill afford the loss
of this caliber of leadership.
Admiral, if it means anything, Godspeed Sir... from an old diesel-qualified
raghat who once shook hands with you... in the rain. --DEX Armstrong
USN Bio: Rear
Admiral Albert H. Konetzni, Jr. attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in
White Plains, New York. In 1962, he entered the United States Naval Academy
where he graduated with merit and received a commission in 1966. Following
graduation from the Naval Academy, Rear Admiral Konetzni attended Naval
Submarine School in New London, Connecticut followed by Nuclear Power School in
Mare Island, California and completed his nuclear training at Naval Nuclear
Power Prototype Training in West Milton, New York. In 1968, he reported to USS
MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658) (Gold) for his initial submarine assignment, and
in 1970 he reported to the United States Naval Academy and served as a Company
In 1972, Rear Admiral
Konetzni reported to the pre-Commissioning Unit WILLIAM H. BATES (SSN 680)
under construction in Pascagoula, Mississippi and served as Engineer Officer
through commissioning until 1976. Following that tour, Rear Admiral Konetzni
served as Executive Officer, USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSBN 642) (Gold) from June 1976 to
December 1978. In December 1978, Rear Admiral Konetzni reported to the Naval
Military Personnel command and served as Submarine Placement Officer and
Executive Officer Detailer. His first command tour was onboard USS GRAYLING
(SSN 646) from August 1981 until May 1984.
Rear Admiral Konetzni served as Deputy Commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy from
August 1984 until May 1987. He commanded Submarine Squadron SIXTEEN from May
1987 until July 1989. After his squadron command, he served as Senior Fellow of
the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group. Rear Admiral Konetzni
then served as Deputy Director of the Submarine Strategic Division in the
Office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Undersea Warfare) from July
1990 until April 1991. From April 1991 to April 1993, he served as Chief of
Staff to Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
His next assignment was as
Director, Attack Submarine Division (N872) at the Pentagon from June 1993 until
February 1994. From February 1994 to November 1995, he served as the Assistant
Chief of Naval Personnel to the Bureau of Naval Personnel for Total Force
Programming and Manpower (PERS-5) and Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for
Personnel Policy and Career Progression (PERS-2. Prior to his current duties,
he served as Commander Submarine Group SEVEN in Yokosuka, Japan from December
1995 to April 1998. Rear Admiral Konetzni assumed his current duties as
Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in May, 1998.
Rear Admiral Konetzni is entitled to wear the Legion of Merit with a silver
star, the Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, the Navy and Marine
Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars, and the Navy and Marine Corps
Achievement Medal. He was also awarded the Order of National Security Merite
Cheonsu Medal by the Republic of Korea in December 1997. He holds a Master’s
Degree in Industrial Personnel Management from George Washington University and
is the coauthor of the book "Command at Sea."
"VADM Al Konetzni is one of my best memories of 22 1/2 years in the navy. He was
my engineer on the PCO William H. Bates and also my qual walkthru officer when
I qualified after commissioning. I now look at him as my friend and shipmate. I
would follow him to the ends of the earth and do anything that he requested. I
have heard over the year how he never lost his humanity and caring for the
everyday sailor. I feel the the Navy and the country is losing a shipmate that
the shoes will be hard to fill. Eng, may Missy and your days be full of
happiness and joy and you next duty station be exciting and fullfilling. God
-- James Fox, EMCS(SS), Ret
"Big Al had no hesitation at Submarine Birthday Balls or conventions in taking
off his dinner dress jacket, when he was done speaking and putting on his
SUBVETS VEST. He also shows up at 40 School Street unannounced with his COB Bud
Atkins and buys rounds till closing."
-- John "Gumba" Carcioppolo
"I received my invitation to his retirement which I will be attending
next Friday, 18 July... He has also followed it up with a few emails and phone
calls to me to make sure that Betty and myself will be there...That's the kind
of person that he is...
I first met him when I was COB on the USS Ray and he was Commanding Officer of
the USS Grayling, pier Mike, Charleston, SC... I was his first Command Master
Chief when he was Commodore of Subron 16 in Kings Bay, Ga... I am attaching a
picture (below), taken when he retired me in 1988, and he was a Captain back
Commodore, he would not travel without his CMC, so I got to do a lot of
traveling with him...One instance, we had boarded the plane at the Jacksonville
International Airport in Florida, we both were in our blues, and he made the
comment that folks thought that I outranked him, because of all the gold (I had
8 hash marks) and he only had 4 bars... (see photo to right - click photo
for full size view)
He was the best CO I ever had, always had the "door open policy", and if I ever
went to his office, and he wasn't there, would find him out on the pier with
He did love his Arturo Fuente cigars but I don't know if he still smokes them as
he did take up running... Will take my camera with me to Norfolk and hopefully
get some good pictures...
is a picture (click for full size view) taken the night before my retirement...
Big Al had a cookout at his home for all our staff, boat sailors and anyone
else that wanted to come... He had arranged to have 2 wild pigs cooked for the
party along with everything else... He seemed to have an "open door
policy" even at his home... He had just presented me with a book on the Naval
Academy and you can see in the picture his ever present cigar...I don't believe
the cup has coffee in it...<grin> Warmest regards, Admiral"
-- John O'Connor, RMCM(SS), USN, RET (cobber)
"I talked with the Admiral for
only a brief few moments at the 1999 USSVI Convention, but like any one else
who has had the privilege of a handshake from the gentleman, you know that it's
the Navy's loss now that he's retiring...
Our shipmates out there who served under him have seen him to be the best
example of where "respect" in our submarine force and Navy could be found; "Big
Al, the Sailors Pal" is more than a ditty - it's correct!
Congratulations on your retirement Admiral! Best Regards..."
-- John Clear EMC(SS) USN Ret.
"I was on board USS TOPEKA (SSN 754) at 2359 on December 31, 1999.
Earlier that week we had been told we had to cut short our port visit and get
to where the International Dateline and the Equator cross for what basically
amounted to a publicity stunt. Most of the crew didn't like the idea but orders
is orders and away we went.
We made the crossing and made history (much credit due to the
Navigator, LT Mike Bratton) and then pulled in to Yokosuka, Japan. Admiral
Konetzni was there on the pier for us and he gave a speech that said "it's my
fault you guys had to . . . do that [stunt], I'm to blame, don't be angry at
the Navy, be angry with me if you want to be angry at somebody."
That took away all feelings of animosity throughout the ship, being
able to point to an individual and say "he did it" rather than "the Navy did
it." The crew already greatly respected Adm. K, but that day we all loved him."
* * * *
"Another memory I have of him was when he rode the TOPEKA for a
short time and offered me one of his cigars. He didn't know me from anybody, I
was just another E-6 in the engine room, but he joked with me and we enjoyed
those cigars for an hour or so.
Thank you for being such a fine man and a fine sailor Admiral, you
will be sorely missed by the Navy. Thanks for 5-section duty, thanks for the
cigar, and thanks for your service to our country. "
MM1(SS) Frederick T. Smith, USN
Additional Photos from John (Cobber) O'Connor (click photos for
full size view):
Retirement Ceremony Images from John "Cobber" O'Connor (click on
images for full size):
(click above images for full size)
From Mike Hacking:
VADM Konetzni and ADM Bowman in the crew's mess of USS HAWKBILL (SSN 666)
during the SCICEX 1999 talking with the ship's COB. As Mike said in the email
he sent with this photo, "There's a lot of horsepower at that table..."
If you'd like to share a memory of Big Al, please contact the
And to followup on the ceremony...
"We need to give more than just lip service to our people, our submarines, as
the core of our professional business. We also need to keep our future in
focus. We have the most versatile platform and capable warriors in the U.S.
Armed Forces, and we need to keep our edge in the maritime sphere. I firmly
believe that the submarine force is critical to our national defense. It is our
responsiblity to keep charging forward and operating in a manner where others
understand our importance too."
"The tradition of Lockwood Hall, the Clean Sweep Bar, and the Skippers
Lounge are the bedrock of our tradition as submariners... To have the
traditions our veterans passed down to us over the past 100 years is crucial as
we move into the new millennium... It will help to mentor our future submarine
warriors. We have over 400 people here at the reception. I think it
demonstrates to our submarine vets that we'll never forget their sacrifice"-Al Konetzni, COMSUBPAC, on
the occasion of the reopening of the "Clean Sweep" bar located in
the historic Lockwood Hall, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Thursday, October
"Al Konetzni has trained a legion of COs who will lead the submarine force
through this next decade - and will do it proudly every step of the way.
Knowing Al is the person that trained them gives me great confidence for our
future. My thanks and well done, good friend." --Admiral Thomas B. Fargo Commander in
Chief at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Submarine Force U.S.
Pacific (COMSUBPAC) Change of Command ceremony, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
April 25, 2001
"He is not a desk admiral. Nearly every day you see him out on the
waterfront, talking to people... says Bill Cramer, USS Greenville captain
of the boat and a former member of Konetzni's staff. "He'll smoke a cigar with
the sailors. Before, a lot of guys didn't even know who the submarine force
--Bill Cramer, Commanding
Officer, USS Greenville
"VADM Al Konetzni is one of my best memories of 22 1/2 years in the navy.
He was my engineer on the PCO William H. Bates and also my qual walkthru
officer when I qualified after commissioning. I now look at him as my friend
and shipmate. I would follow him to the ends of the earth and do anything that
he requested. I have heard over the year how he never lost his humanity and
caring for the everyday sailor. I feel the the Navy and the country is losing a
shipmate that the shoes will be hard to fill. Eng, may Missy and your days be
full of happiness and joy and you next duty station be exciting and
fullfilling. God Bless."
--James Fox, EMCS(SS), Ret
"In the spring of 2001 the Arctic Submarine Lab, in conjunction with the Applied
Physics Lab / University of Washington and the USS HAWKBILL, established an ice
camp approximately 200 miles North of the Alaskan village of Barrow. The ice
camp was being conducted as a part of the Navy's final dedicated Science Ice
Exercise (SCICEX). As a part of the exercise we had scheduled a pretty
impressive list of VIPs including VADM Bowman, the head of NSF, an Asst SECDEF
and others. VADM Konetzni was to be the host for the VIP visit and had to
travel directly from Japan to Barrow via, Honolulu, Seattle, and Anchorage.
After an 18-hour trip the Admiral arrived in Barrow, unfortunately his baggage
didn't. We got him some winter clothes (after all it was about -20F outside)
and made sure he had a supply of the finest cigars available in Barrow Alaska
(not a real good selection). The next day when we had to get him out to the ice
camp to meet the sub (and his luggage still had not shown up) we ran him by the
local "general store" and about $100 later he walked out with a couple pair of
skivies, some razors, shave cream and deodorant. He was stunned, and probably
still has the receipt. Needless to say the VIP tours all went well, the Admiral
was a hit and the SCICEX was a great success. Admiral Konetzni has been a great
friend to the submarine force and will be missed."
-- Mike Hacking
"Admiral Konetzni: Learning of your retirement is bittersweet. Every submarine
sailor knows that you are the best of the best and we wish you could remain on
active duty forever doing the things you do to make life better for sailors. On
the other hand, you've certainly more than earned some extended "liberty". It
was a thrill to chat with you at the Reno convention. But some of my fondest
memories are of the time we served together on Mariano G. Vallejo. I distinctly
remember one mid-watch in 1969 or 1970, when you were OOD and a group of us
were shooting the bull in the Control Room. We talked of things that bothered
us, things we would change if we could, and you remarked, "well guys, it won't
be like this when I'm ComSubPac!". Truer words were NEVER spoken! We all owe
you a great debt of gratitude. We all wish you the very best in retirement. I
hope you will find the time to lend some of your "pull" and talents to the
USSVI. Thank you, shipmate! Fair winds and following seas. Hand Salute! Bill"
--RMCM(SS) W. F. Linné Submariner, Retired
And from a Norfolk newspaper: KONETZNI STEPS DOWN AFTER 38 YEARS (Norfolk,
VA, July 16th, 2004, 3:36 p.m.) The deputy commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces
Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet is retiring after 38 years of active duty.
Three-star Vice Admiral Al Konetzni is stepping down today at the age of 59.
He'll be replaced by Rear Admiral Kevin Cosgriff. During his career, Konetzni
became a submariner and rose through the ranks, eventually heading to Hawaii to
become commander of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force. In 2001, he came to
Norfolk, where he bore much of the responsibility for more than 150 ships,
nearly 1,200 aircraft, 18 major shore installations and 129,000 people during
the war on terrorism. Along the way, he earned the admiration of many sailors
and a very different kind of nickname, "Big Al the Sailor's Pal." Konetzni has
helped the Navy rethink how it deploys and is credited with being the principal
engineer of the Navy's Fleet Response Plan. Under that plan, ships are moving
away from regularly scheduled, six-month deployments and instead must be
prepared to leave as world events demand.
"I had the pleasure of being introduced to the great man when serving onboard
HMAS WALLER (Collins Class SSK). I found him to be an imposing and powerful
figure who had the uncanny ability to quickly put those around him at ease. I
see it as a sad loss for your navy and can only hope he is not one of a kind.
Please forward my warmest wishes as appropriate."
--CPOMTSM Thomas Costello Submarine Sea Training Group Royal Australian Navy
I just wanted to share a few good words about Big Al. Big Al
married my mom 12 years ago, and ever since, has been nothing but
kind to me and my brother Chris. He is not only a great leader in
the business and military world, but an amazing role model for
everyone! Al lives as he preaches and is honestly always in a good
mood! He is a one of a kind! A great person! Someone I consider one
of the greats! Thanks for being you Al!
Virginia Beach, VA
Big Al Links: