KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- Commander, Submarine Squadron (CSS) 16 held a change-of-command ceremony at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Aug. 3.
Capt. Stephen Gillespie relieved Capt. Tracy Howard as the commodore of one of the Navy's most decorated submarine squadrons.
CSS16 manages the multi-mission capabilities of USS Georgia (SSGN 729) and USS Florida (SSGN 728), the two Ohio-class guided-missile submarines (SSGN) homeported in Kings Bay, as well as providing support to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) before, during and after refueling and overhaul periods.
"I am looking forward to working again with the great community in Kings Bay, with the commanding officers and with my fellow major commanders towards providing the best operational and warfighting submarines in the world," said Gillespie, who once served as commanding officer aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) (Gold) in Kings Bay.
While in command, Howard oversaw Florida's participation in Operation Odyssey Dawn. During the operation, Florida launched more than 90 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAM). The strike marked the first time a SSGN launched Tomahawks in conflict.
Florida was converted from a SSBN in May 2006. The SSGN conversion program produced transformational capability on a time-compressed schedule and with a drastically lower price tag. Instead of designing an entire new platform to perform the same mission capabilities, the conversion program reduced the cost to the Department of Defense by roughly $1 billion per ship.
Howard said he was most impressed by the unparalleled team approach in support of the Kings Bay submarines by the local submarine community during his time here.
"Having operated submarines in five other submarine homeports, I don't think any other waterfront support team works together as well to do the right thing for the submarine force, our submarines and our Sailors," said the Tupelo, Miss., native.
Howard was also instrumental in Georgia's first 12-month overseas deployment.
"Georgia's operations have been ground breaking in employing several first-of-their-kind systems that have provided invaluable intelligence to our national leaders and combatant commanders," Howard said.
Georgia, which had completed its own SSGN conversion in March 2010, has the ability to serve in a variety of missions such as strike, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance because of the missile conversion and upgrades to the payload capacity and communications systems. By using Diego Garcia as a crew exchange point, the SSGN can maintain a continuous presence in its area of operation 70 percent of the year.
Under the commodore's command, CSS 16 also transferred USS Alaska (SSBN 732), a mainstay in the Nation's current strategic patrol coverage, to Submarine Squadron 20; supported USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) through its near flawless safety record during its 30-month refueling and overhaul period at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the boomer's subsequent return to Kings Bay; and supported USS West Virginia's (SSBN 736) transition from a strategic deterrent asset to begin their own refuel and overhaul in Norfolk, Va.
"I am very pleased with my time in command at Submarine Squadron 16," Howard said. "I think we did our best to support the successes of our assigned SSBNs and SSGNs."
Howard soon moves on to Submarine Warfare Division, N87, in Washington, D.C. to help ensure the submarine force remains elite.
"My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Kings Bay, but we are looking forward to returning to the Northern Virginia area," Howard said. "While I look forward to joining in on the critical efforts at our submarine directorate to provide the resources to keep our submarines equipped with the latest and greatest tools they need to maintain our undersea dominance, I will miss being close to the waterfront and directly supporting our submarine crews."
For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 10, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg10/.