honoring sub veterans

Retired Vice Admiral Al Konetzni Jr. was the keynote speaker at a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay to commemorate WWII submarine veterans in November.

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Marine Corps and Coast Guard units in Glynn and Camden counties have just gotten a powerful voice to speak on their behalf.

Retired Vice Adm. Al Konetzni has agreed to serve on the board of directors for The Camden Partnership, an organization that works to support local sea services, their missions and contractors that provide the services supporting those missions.

Sheila McNeill, president of The Camden Partnership, said Konetzni, who now lives in Camden County, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help the organization reach its goals. He gives added credibility when the organization tries to generate support when it advocates for a particular issue.

“I think it makes us stronger to have someone who understands the Navy inside and out,” McNeill said. “He knows firsthand what’s needed.”

Partnership successes from the past include saving a maritime safety and security Coast Guard unit in Camden County from closure. The unit was one of the ones protecting ports and other maritime assets along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The partnership also played an important role in saving the four oldest Ohio-class submarines from decommissioning. The missile silos were refitted to carry non-nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles. The boats now conduct clandestine missions along coastal areas anywhere in the world.

Konetzni was commissioned as an ensign in 1966 and rose in rank to vice admiral over a career that spanned 38 years. He helped create programs to support sailors and their missions, which led to his nickname, “Big Al, the sailor’s pal.”

He was commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific from 1998 until 2001 when he created a plan to solve the high attrition rate among young sailors. He created a program that reduced the attrition rate from 25 percent down to seven percent in two years.

The Navy incorporated his program after seeing the success rate he achieved in the Pacific, and it currently has the highest retention rates in its history.

He is credited for saving billions in taxpayer dollars by saving a squadron of submarines from early decommissioning and destruction during the time he served in the Pacific.

He was tested as deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and Command and the Atlantic Fleet to ensure ports and ships were protected in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In 2003, he helped the Chief of Naval Operations re-evaluate how the Navy deploys and maintains a global presence. He was the principal engineer of the Fleet Response Plan credited for transforming Navy planning.

“This plan has enabled the Navy to rethink how it mans, maintains, equips, trains, and ultimately fights its ships,” according to his biography.

McNeill said Konetzni’s knowledge will help the partnership better support the Coast Guard and Navy commands in the region. And, now that he’s retired, McNeill said he is free to voice his opinion on any issue that involves the Navy.

“He’s an icon,” she said. “He remains vital and vibrant in the submarine community.”

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