NEW LONDON, Conn. (NNS) -- Capt. John McGunnigle relieved Capt. James Waters as commander, Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 4, July 30, onboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) at Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.
Vice Adm. Michael Connor, Commander, Submarine Forces, was the featured speaker. He also presented Waters with his second Legion of Merit award.
Waters assumed command of SUBRON 4, Aug. 30, 2013. He is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and completed his graduate studies at England's Oxford University in 1991.
"I must say that these past two years as commodore has been busy and incredibly rewarding - some of the most fruitful and personally inspirational time in my career," said Waters. "The job of being a commodore is awesome! Some who hear have been skeptical given all of the time away from home. So I explain that I have a corner office with a view of submarines in the water; I spend time at sea with submariners shooting, tracking and drilling; I have a great boss who lives 500 miles away; and the only people who work directly for me are submarine commanding officers groomed by the Navy for more than 15 years and a small hand-picked staff of experts in their fields. So, how could that ever be bad?
"I have 10 commanding officers who are truly the best with an accumulation of more than 100 years of submarine experience and tactical acumen. We expect them to train a team to operate and live within a complex machine containing a nuclear reactor, high pressure steam and oil, high voltage electricity, and explosive warheads surrounded by pressurized salt water, thousands of miles from home for months at a time without any support or advice. All this, to be in just the right place at just the right time to perhaps observe a fleeting something in peacetime or destroy a very specific something in wartime without ever being detected by anyone at any time. If anything does go wrong they must figure out why, fix the problem and keep going with tenacity. The bottom line is that we expect the nearly impossible.
"We achieve that by exposing our commanders and their crews to the most rigorous training environment we can create and give them room to strive, learn, grow, and even fail from time to time, hardening them for the reality that is independent undersea operations at the far side of the world. This is critical in our mission to create uncertainty in the minds of our adversaries around the world. We not only say we can disappear under the waves and be anywhere in the world within days but we actually do this hard thing day in and day out. This ensures uncertainty for our adversaries is routine and causes them to question their ability to influence us and our allies thereby changing the way they behave in the world - invaluable in the defense of our great nation."
Waters continued stating the strength of commanding officers were critical to the submarine force and its mission.
"Commanding officers must show virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices. These men, and someday women, are keepers of a sacred trust with the American people by using the training and equipment given to them to do the extraordinary and nearly impossible things in providing for the common defense and protection of their general welfare. I am in awe every time I think of what they do each and every day.
"I want you all to know what a privilege it has been to lead this squadron. I have learned so much and enjoyed every minute of my time in command. It was an amazing journey working with great people doing important things...a true honor and privilege. I thank God for the opportunity and sustaining grace to carry me through to the end. Thank you."
Homeported at Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, the mission of SUBRON 4 is to equip, man and train Sailors assigned to fast attack submarines to ensure that they are combat ready and capable of taking the fight to the enemy. Its submarines are able to bring strength, agility, firepower and endurance to the battle space like no other platform in the U.S. Navy. The squadron includes seven operational Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class attack submarines; two new construction Virginia-class submarines; and one decommissioned Los Angeles-class submarine.
McGunnigle's previous assignment was deputy at Commander, Submarine Development Squadron 12, also headquartered at Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.
"Capt. Waters, I thank you for welcoming us to Submarine Squadron 4," said McGunnigle, former commanding officer of USS New Hampshire. "You have turned over a submarine squadron at the leading edge in front-line operations and submarine new construction. You have built a strong staff in support of the waterfront and deployed submarine operations. I am in awe of what you have been able to accomplish and I know that you have set me up for success.
"To the staff of Submarine Squadron 4, I stand before you humbled and in awe of your operational and tactical expertise. I am honored to join the Submarine Squadron Four team and feel privileged to be your commander. Consider all standing orders and policies to remain in effect unless specifically changed by me.
"Lastly to the USS New Hampshire, thank you for your time and effort accommodating this change of command. There is not a more meaningful place for me than this submarine. 'Live Free (or Die)'."
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant/.