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Vice Admiral Albert H. "Big Al" Konetzni Jr.
On 16 July 2004, the submarine family wished a fond farewell and happy retirement to VADM Al Konetzni

"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 Officer.  

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 Bless."

-- 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 then...

As 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 his sailors...

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...

Here 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..."

  • More photos can be found here:
  • If you'd like to share a memory of Big Al, please contact the webmaster.

And to followup on the ceremony...

Big Al

"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."
--VADM Konetzni

 "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 7, 1999.


"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 admiral was."
--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

My Stepdad!

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!

Bryan Lane
Virginia Beach, VA

 Big Al Links:

I asked Dex Armstrong to write down a few words about his experience at Big Al's retirement ceremony. This is his report:

"Don, it was a wonderful day... made even better by linking up with Tom Conlon and his lovely bride. SubVets is very fortunate to have the MAGNIFICENT TM as a national officer. They don't come any better.

The retirement service was held on what used to be Pier Two at NOB... Naval Operating Base Norfolk. They have renumbered the piers. The USS Jackson and The Tennessee, both nuke boats, were tied up on either side of the pier. Great setting and a wonderful turnout. From beginning to end it was a fitting tribute to the fine officer who was "tossing his seabag on the pier". Somebody had forgotten to throw the bolt on the Admirals Locker and it appeared that they had all gotten out and turned up to wish Big Al well in his retirement. Tom and I also observed that Big Al sure knew a boxcar load of really goodlooking women... The pier was crawling with gorgeous women decked out to the nines.

Bright sunshine, officers...ranking officers from around the world...Hell, it looked like an international naval conference...Japanese Admirals, Danish, British, Admirals from places only God and National Geographic ever heard of. Politicians... both sides of the political divide... and noneother than Larry King, whose absolutely knockout bride did an outstanding job singing the National Anthem. Larry King, it turns out, is just another in the long line of planet residents that call Vice Admiral Al Konetzni, friend.

"He was a heavy weather sailor who shared seawater-diluted midwatch coffee with the men he so abley led..."

I was most impressed by the number of ex-enlisted invitees... old worn and life-battered bluejackets who, like myself, had driven miles to present themselves as a silent goodbye to a fine and deeply respected officer. There is a line in Kipling's IF that characterizes Big Al... it came to me sitting there under that bright Virginia sun... "If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch..." That captures the man.

God has blessed Big Al... Both of his parents were there to witness the high esteem with which their son is held. I was honored simply to be a small part of that gathering. At a time in our nation's history where we deeply needed examples of proper, uncompromizing leadership, we found Big Al... As the afternoon wore on and heavyweight speaker after heavyweight speaker rose to pay tribute to this fine officer and gentleman... intimate revelations appeared.

Vice Admiral Konetzni, it appears...early in his career, before establishing his proper behavior, maturity and better judgement bearings and Admiral like course headings, had done his share of tapdancing with the Devil and doing the Saltwater Fandango with the Goddess of the Main Induction. Big Al, was and remains no shore duty pantywaist... he smoked his share of cheap cigars, left beer glass rings on scarred tables in the strange seaports of the world and raised a little more than his fair share of hell in sailoring. He was a heavy weather sailor who shared seawater-diluted midwatch coffee with the men he so abley led. I was honored to be present at his official Adios.

But a day spent basking in the sun, with Tom Conlon... even if it was attending a cock fight in a trash filled alley in Panama... a day with The Magnificent TM would have made "living the moment" far more than simply worthwhile. And that Professor Gentry is my report, Sir. DEX "

More feedback from friends and shipmates:

"Your site was the first word I had recieved that VADM Konetzni had retired. And I had $20 riding on him to wind up as CNO. But I didn't know him as Big Al. On the KAMEHAMEHA in the late 70s, when he was a mere LCDR we called him Uncle Al. Ask anybody who was on Kamfish Gold, Uncle Al was a cool dude. Absolutely the best boss I've ever had. Junior enlisteds - senior seamen and freshly minted 3rd classes he thought had potential - would be given far more responsibility than they had ever dreamed they could handle.

And just when you were about to snap - ready to admit you were a dope-smoking homosexual Communist just so you could get a good night's sleep in the brig - the exec would pull you off to the side, stick one of those foul green cigars of his in your mouth, light it for you, and as he squeezed your shoulder he'd say "Damn, boy, I know you're working your ass off and I really appreciate it 'cause what we're doing is important and man, I just couldn't do it without you." So you'ld go walking off puffing on your stogie, nine feet tall with a Johnson dragging on the deck, saying "Sure, I can do another month of 20-hour days, because Uncle Al is counting on me."

I was trying to explain last year to a friend who's on the editorial board of a major daily newspaper what it was like to work for Uncle Al and all I could say was "I haven't seen or talked to the man in 25 years, but if he walked in to the room right now and said 'Jim, I don't have time to explain, but there are thousands of lives at stake and I really need for you to go downtown and jump off a tall building' I would go downtown and jump off a tall building." My friend thought I was kidding, but she never worked for Uncle Al. It's less of a Navy without him." -- Jim Sherman

"It was a great day on the U.S.S. Ohio SSBN 726 we were in San Diego and on our way to pickup Big "Al" and Larry King and wife along with many other V.I.P.'s Big Al stopped by the galley several times to say hello to his Gumba's as he put it. We talked about alot of things in the military and many of the changes that had come along several due to Big "Al" and he said you know, "when someone comes to me with and idea I always ask how will that affect the blueshirts?" I told him, " Admiral you do more for a submariner in one day than he can do for himself in a year!" and with that he gave me a hug and said that is why you guys are my Gumbas. God Bless you Big Al and know that I try to put a little bit of your leadership style into my daily routine even now as a CSLPO." -- CS1/SS Douglas McKay

"Dear Submariners, I would like to share with you a precious memory we have of Big Al the submariners Pal In 2000, our son James Terrence John Crofts was diagnosed with a brain tumour inoperable and sadly he passed away in June 13th 2001 at home with his family. James corresponded regularly with the crew from USS JOHN C STENNIS and was also invited on Board the Abraham Lincoln group warships as James was an honorary submariner, on the USS CHEYENNE and honorary Aussie Submariner who loved all things Navy.

Al Konetzni heard of James by the USA Commander in Chief of the Seventh Fleet, and came to visit James in Australia, to make his dreams come true to meet a real officer and submariner from Hawaii Sevent Fleet Command USA. James wrote some beautiful poetry and letters to the crew of the seventh fleet. He spent a joyful after noon with our James, laughing and talking mostly with James and assorted folks present, Peter Clarke (Rear Admiral Ret.) and others. He made our son so happy and joyful. He and his wife Missy we still wish to contact and keep in touch with as we consider them now family. We are also sad we never hear from the John C Stennis Crew, as James promised to spend his eternity in heaven, by protecting the John C Stennis, The Abe Lincoln, and the destroyers he visited, and the submariners of the USA and Australia. I know James is always watching over you all now God Bless you all." -- Gabby Crofts and entire family of James Crofts - forever a honorary submariner. forever 14.