USS Pittsburgh Holds Change of Command Ceremony

USS Pittsburgh Holds Change of Command Ceremony

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton Aug. 3.

Cmdr. Michael Ward relieved Cmdr. Michael Savageaux during the time-honored ceremony.

Capt. Emil Casciano, commanding officer, Submarine Learning Center, spoke at the ceremony and reflected on the pivotal role commanding officers perform in our submarine force.

“It’s neither accident nor coincidence that a ship’s crew reflects the passion and engagement of their captain, and USS Pittsburgh has had both in abundance under Mike Savageaux,” said Casciano. “The professional growth and development of his crew is the legacy of every skipper who would leave his ship better than when he came aboard. That, simply put, is USS Pittsburgh.”

During Savageaux’s command tour, USS Pittsburgh not only completed two deployments vital to national security, but also received numerous awards.

“Under your leadership, Pittsburgh received two consecutive Golden Anchor awards and the 2010 Commander, Submarine Squadron Two Battle Efficiency award. Your professionalism and commitment has established a spirit-de-corps that will resonate on Pittsburgh for years to come,” said Vice Adm. John Richardson, commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic in a naval message praising Savageaux for his achievements.

Richardson also congratulated Ward on his new assignment as commanding officer of USS Pittsburgh. “You are embarking on the most rewarding, challenging, and demanding job in the Navy: Command at Sea.”

Savageaux reflected on the quality of men and their leadership progression while in command of USS Pittsburgh that made his command tour successful.

“I am always impressed with the growth of the men under my command,” said Savageaux. “I have seen many of my Sailors grow from learners into leaders.”

Savageaux added that he is impressed with both his junior officers and chiefs’ mess aboard Pittsburgh. He added that many of his junior officers have transformed during his time aboard by not only obtaining their submarine qualifications, but by also becoming squadron junior officers of the year.

“To see my leading engineering laboratory technician go from Sailor of the Year to one of the waterfront’s top chief petty officers has been particularly rewarding,” said Savageaux.

Savageaux who has served more than three years as Pittsburgh’s commanding officer added that in addition to his top-notch crew, his family-oriented command has led to the success of the submarine and her crew.

“The most rewarding aspect of my command tour was that we built a tight, family-oriented command despite having a very high operating tempo,” said Savageaux. “This atmosphere was not limited to the way the crew banded together to meet every task, but also in the way the Family Readiness Group and Recreation Committee supported the crew and families while the ship was in port or deployed.”

He added that their “togetherness has been critical to the success of the ship, as all elements of the command family support one another, providing the strength to meet any challenge.” 

The support of USS Pittsburgh extends beyond that of the crew, families and Family Readiness Group to that of their host city who has been closely involved with the ship since its commissioning 27 years ago.

“The city supports the crew with scholarships and the Family Readiness Group with their programs for the children, and we have traveled to the city to celebrate the ship’s birthday, and to support various Navy-sponsored programs in the Pittsburgh area,” said Savageaux.

Savageaux and his family will be staying in the Groton area as he will soon take over the position as director of training, Naval Submarine School. Extended family members from the Central Massachusetts region attended Savageaux’s change of command.

Like Savageaux, Ward is looking forward to taking the helm of USS Pittsburgh, something he has worked toward since entering the U.S. Navy in 1987.

“My dream job is and always has been commanding a submarine,” said Ward. “This is the culmination of a dream I have had from a very young age.”

Lifelong friends from New York to Florida, and as far west as Kansas, as well as his extended family, including his 93-year old grandmother, Josephine Syroczinski, attended the change of command ceremony to witness Ward’s rite of passage.

Prior to taking command of USS Pittsburgh, Ward served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-5, at the Pentagon.

Pittsburgh recently returned from a six-month deployment on June 27.

Pittsburgh, commissioned Nov. 23, 1985, was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division, and is the fourth American warship to be named for the city of Pittsburgh.

Naval Today Staff, August 6, 2012; Image: US Navy