USS Mississippi Holds Change of Command Ceremony

USS Mississippi Holds Change of Command Ceremony

Virginia-class attack submarine USS Mississippi (SSN 782) held a change of command ceremony, aboard Naval Submarine Base New London, May 10.

Cmdr. Tory Swanson relieved Capt. John McGrath as commanding officer. Guest speaker Capt. William Merz, Chief of Staff, Commander, Submarine Forces praised McGrath for his accomplishments during his command tour and welcomed the second commanding officer to take the helm of the Mississippi.

In addition to Merz, the ship’s sponsor Ms. Allison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Ship Programs also attended the ceremony and praised McGrath for his accomplishments.

“It’s an honor to be here for another first, the first change of command ceremony,” said Stiller, who thanked McGrath for his great leadership. “It’s an honor to be your sponsor.”

McGrath received other praise for his successful command tour.

“Your tactical vision and deckplate leadership guided the Mississippi team in shattering all new construction metrics and performing flawlessly in more than 40 certification events,” said Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic in a naval message highlighting McGrath for his achievements. “The accomplishments of your crew shortened all readiness timelines and delivered another fleet asset ready for tasking. Take great pride in becoming the first commanding officer to take a Virginia-class ship from initial manning through commissioning and into Post Shakedown Availability. Your diligent efforts were instrumental in transforming a lifeless steel hull into a living tribute to the state of Mississippi and the U.S. Navy.”

McGrath reflected on the journey he and his crew made together from the beginning of construction through the attack submarine’s christening, commissioning, Post Shakedown Availability and change of command.

“As the first CO, I took my roles with the boat and crew very personally,” said McGrath, native of Neptune, N.J., led his crew of 142 officers and enlisted personnel for the past four years. “It is difficult to let them go, but I will always be proud of our accomplishments here and I look forward to the boat’s continued success under Cmdr. Swanson.”

McGrath’s command tour was unique in that he served as the first Virginia-class commanding officer to take his ship from initial manning well into PSA. During the award ceremony, McGrath’s official award citation highlighted another first he accomplished during his tour, conducting the first submarine visit to Pascagoula, Miss., in decades for the submarine’s commissioning last June.

Additionally during McGrath’s command tour, Mississippi received another first when the submarine was selected as the 2012 Chief of Naval Operations Project Good Neighbor Flagship Award winner.

During McGrath’s tour he also established long lasting relationships with his submarine’s namesake state. That unique bond was apparent at the ceremony when submarine veterans from the USSVI Tullibee Base in Biloxi, Miss., officially welcomed McGrath’s relief to continue the namesake bond.

“The submarine veterans worked with their local state representative to issue a Proclamation to welcome my relief, Cmdr. Swanson, and recognize May 10 as the first change of command ceremony for the USS Mississippi,” said McGrath, who added this proclamation was a complete surprise to Swanson. The proclamation officially welcomed him as the new commanding officer of USS Mississippi.

The proclamation, signed by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, president of the Mississippi Senate and Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, also officially recognized Swanson as an Honorary resident of Mississippi.

Swanson, a native of Arvada, Colo., reflected on assuming command of USS Mississippi and taking the submarine and her crew on their next journey.

“I am honored to relieve as commanding officer of one of the newest Virginia-class submarines along with an extremely talented and professional crew,” said Swanson. “Capt. McGrath and this crew have delivered an extremely capable piece of technology and I look forward to taking the reins and exercising her on our first deployment.”

Prior to assuming command of USS Mississippi Swanson served at USAFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany. McGrath will depart USS Mississippi for his follow-on assignment at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Mississippi, commissioned in June 2012, is designed to dominate both the littorals and deep oceans. Mississippi serves as a valuable asset in supporting the core capabilities of maritime strategy, sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

Press Release, May 13, 2013; Image: US Navy