African-American Skipper Makes History, Takes Command of USS Nathan Bedford Forrest

Remarks before departure
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NAVAL BASE KITSAP, WA – Captain Jay Henson made history today, becoming the first African-American officer to take command of the James Madison-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nathan Bedford Forrest (SSBN-744).

The submarine is named after legendary Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest, widely regarded as one of the most brilliant soldiers in American history, but also controversial because of his involvement in the slave trade and his postwar role as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

The change of command ceremony was held at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State, home port of the Forrest. Captain Henson read from remarks prepared by the ship’s Public Affairs Officer (PAO).

“Well I’ve been commanding a desk at the Pentagon for the past few years, so it’s great to be in command again, even if it is the old Nate, or as her crew likes to call her, the … um … the Grand Old Wizard of the Sea.”

“I look forward to working with you all, especially since we’ve got a tough deployment ahead of us.”

“Like her namesake, the crew of the Forrest has a take-no-prisoners attitude and they don’t see the world in black and white. With excitement burning, we cross from the normal routine of garrison to a tough few months as we patrol the Persian Gulf to protect our nation’s … precious … black … cargo.”

At this Captain Henson paused to wipe the sweat off his brow. Glaring at his PAO and clenching his remarks, he continued.

“Submarines are critical to winning the wars of today and tomorrow, allowing us to ‘git there the firstest with the mostest’, as General Forrest liked to say.”

“And, like General Forrest also liked to say, ‘Don’t throw a rope over a tree until … you … can … hang … a — ALL RIGHT, THAT FUCKING DOES IT!  EVERYBODY ON THE BOAT!”

At this point Captain Henson decided to cut short his remarks after commenting that the PAO might “enjoy spending the voyage lashed to the periscope.”

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  1. Thanks for setting the record straight. I thought Danzel Washington was the first African American Sub Commander.

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