KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- USS Florida (SSGN 728) (Gold) held a change-of-command ceremony aboard Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., May 5.
Capt. David Kirk relieved Capt. Tom Calabrese as the USS Florida (Gold) commanding officer.
After receiving an introduction from Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, commander, Submarine Group 10, Calabrese said he had no regrets in accepting the "burden of command," despite having already served as a commanding officer.
"Being a part of a submarine crew is special," said Calabrese. "The camaraderie, the spirit, the brotherhood. Those of you who serve or have served on a submarine or a naval vessel know what I'm talking about. It's that unwavering honesty, integrity and loyalty to each other while doing whatever it takes to get the job done. That's what I wanted again."
Calabrese then shared some sea stories, reflecting back on events he said were stressful at the time, but now seemed trivial enough to joke about. During his speech, he took pride in his wardroom and chief's mess while teasing the E-5 and below for their sometimes overly ambitious energy. As he concluded his speech, Calabrese spoke of his father.
"I gave [my father] a call from Gibraltar during our port visit, and we were talking about Florida's participation in Operation Odyssey Dawn," said Calabrese. "My dad said, 'I'm glad that the crew took good care of you.' His words hit me right between the running lights. It was a great reminder that a ship's success is solely due to the hard work of the Sailors; the young professionals dedicated to each other, dedicated to the ship's mission and dedicated to their nation, so as to be a part of something bigger than themselves. To the Florida gold crew, thanks for taking good care of me over the last two-and-a-half years. I'm forever grateful for your service and will always keep you in my thoughts and prayers."
After Calabrese took command of the Ohio-class guided missile submarine in October 2008, the Levitton, N.Y., native led his crew through three U.S. Central Command deployments, was awarded the 2010 Squadron 16 Battle Efficiency ("E") and earned the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Retention Excellence Awards for 2009 and 2010.
Calabrese also led Florida in Joint Task Force Operation Odyssey Dawn. During the operation, the crew partnered with U.S., joint and coalition forces in support of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973, which authorized all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone. Florida launched more than 90 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM). The strike marked the first time a guided-missile submarine launched Tomahawks in conflict.
Kirk, a Kingsport, Tenn., native, praised his new crew on their accomplishments and reminded them of the laurels the Florida stands for.
"I am both humbled and honored to have this opportunity to lead you aboard Florida," said Kirk. "We have many challenges ahead of us as well as tremendous opportunities to answer our country's call in the future."
USS Florida (SSGN 728) (Gold) is the sixth U.S. Navy ship named for the 27th state.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 10, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg10/.