GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Cmdr. Kurt Balagna relieved Cmdr. Chester Parks as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) during a change of command ceremony held at U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, April 2.
Capt. Butch Dollaga, commander, Submarine Development Squadron (CSDS) 12, was the guest speaker and presented Parks with his second Meritorius Service Medal.
"I can break down Cmdr. Parks' success into two main areas, leadership and people with all supported by the captain's vision," said Dollaga. "He provided that vision of where he wanted the ship to go to everyone onboard and articulated his expectations, then continued to set the standards required for success while maintaining a positive command climate. The results speak for themselves, and we call that leading from the front - leadership at its finest. Finally, our most important asset is our people, and leadership is all about the people. Cmdr. Parks fully understands this law. His focus is on developing individuals to their full potential.
"It takes skill, determination, and endurance to develop an entire crew to work as a cohesive unit, yet Cmdr. Parks was able to make this look easy. In selecting a relief for Cmdr. Parks, not just anybody would do-we had to pick the best guy - someone who will be able to execute arguably the hardest command job there is - deploying to a shipyard! In Cmdr. Balagna we selected the right leader. Cmdr. Parks, congratulations on a job well done! Cmdr. Balagna, I look forward to the days ahead."
Parks graduated in 1994 from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He assumed command of Annapolis, July 12, 2012. Under his command, Annapolis recently completed a deployment from the European and Central Command areas of responsibility on Sept. 11, where the crew executed the Chief of Naval Operation's Maritime Strategy in supporting national security interests and Maritime Security Operations.
"Men of Annapolis, you have accomplished much," said Parks. "This is a great ship and you are a great crew. It has truly been my honor and privilege to serve as your commanding officer. I could not have asked for a better crew. You have made me proud at every turn, from finally getting out of the dry dock to the successful inspections to an outstanding deployment. We have not been without our challenges, but you have learned from each of them to become even better. You are the reason that Annapolis is the Battle "E" boat.
"Cmdr. Balagna, you are about to embark on the best job in the U.S. Navy - command of USS Annapolis. I look forward in continuing to hear great things about Annapolis and her new commanding officer. I wish you the best of luck and know the ship will not miss a beat with you in command."
Balagna, a native of Farmington, Illinois, enlisted in the Navy in April 1992 as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. In 1997, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois and received his commission through the ROTC scholarship program. Prior to assuming command of Annapolis the was the Virginia-class action officer on the staff of CSDS-12 and executive officer of the Tactical Analysis Group.
"Growing up in a small farming community in central Illinois, a thousand miles from the nearest seacoast, the prospect of joining the Navy seemed distant," said Balagna. "After much consideration while attending college, I decided to enlist and serve my country as my father and grandfathers had. However, I never imagined that someday I would achieve this milestone - commanding a submarine.
"I could not ask for a better crew. The courtesy, enthusiasm and professionalism you have shown me has been second to none. Together we will skillfully guide Annapolis into the next phase of her life. It is truly my honor to be your commanding officer and your shipmate. Thank you for your service."
Fast-attack submarines like Annapolis have multi-faceted missions. They use their stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special force operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity, and ensure undersea superiority.
USS Annapolis is the fourth ship to be named for Annapolis, Maryland, site of the U.S. Naval Academy. The boat was built by Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, and the keel was laid down on June 15, 1988. The submarine was christened and launched on May 18, 1991, and commissioned April 11, 1992. The crew compliment includes 14 officers and 138 enlisted Sailors.
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