Converse Assumes Command Of Submarine Squadron Six
NORFOLK, Va. – Capt. Blake L. Converse relieved Capt. Eugene “Gene” E. Sievers as Commander, Submarine Squadron Six (SUBRON SIX), October 5, 2012, onboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765) at Naval Station Norfolk.
Featured speaker was Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, Commander, Submarine Group Two, home based in Groton, Conn.
“It is a pleasure and honor to join this amazing crowd and welcome a new commodore to Squadron Six as we pipe Commodore Gene Sievers ashore for the last time,” said Breckenridge. “In 2010 there were winds of change in the submarine force. With the ongoing shift of submarines from east to west coast, the shore-side support structure was no longer well-matched to the footprint of the vessels that remained. Force-wide, three attack submarine squadrons were dissolved, and the ships that were formerly attached to those squadrons were selectively re-assigned to the remaining squadrons. In this swirling movement of people and ships and organizations, Squadron Six in Norfolk was the eye of the hurricane.
“It was a significant undertaking in adroitly leading seven ships, multiple shore organizations and a large staff through these winds of change. Riding the perfect storm of all three at the same time required a heroic, demanding, and a savvy aggressive leadership in the finest tradition of our most gifted leaders. The firm hand at the rudder, the seasoned navigator at the chart, the strong anchor in the storm was Gene Sievers. He had the unique gifts that made him the perfect man to guide Squadron Six in the storm, and its aftermath in Norfolk during 2010. He wove everything together into an inspirational, yet workable, philosophy that drove force efforts to the highest peak of operational readiness.
“That is what the Navy has been blessed with for more than 27 years and what the squadron has enjoyed the past two years. Today, Blake Converse inherits this capable and powerful organization that is Squadron Six. Congratulations on this assignment - you were made for this moment and I know you will excel!”
Breckenridge then presented Sievers with his second Legion of Merit award commending him for outstanding oversight in preparing the combat readiness and unrivaled performance of seven Los Angeles-class attack submarines on deployments to the North Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and the Southern and Central Command Areas of Responsibilities.
A native of Johnstown, Pa, Sievers assumed command of SUBRON SIX in September 2010.
“The Squadron Six that exists today is a testament to a submarine force that continually assesses the strategic environment and boldly makes decisions to align its resources to prepare its forces to deploy in support of the national security strategy,” said Sievers. “Despite shrinking resources and fiscal constraints every ship in the squadron has deployed in the last two years, three are currently deployed and the rest of the squadron is entering their final preparations for their next challenge. Three different AORs and their associated Combatant Commanders have been served by these efforts with superior results.
“These accomplishments were supported by a leaner organization efficiently crafted to operate within the limits imposed by the current landscape. The squadron staff has not accomplished any of this by itself. The Norfolk team enjoys a fantastic partnership with a world-class repair organization, and a flexible and effective training center which continually stays at the cutting edge of tactics and procedures to prepare the ships and facility here. This training team time and again met nearly impossible timelines and workload to deploy the ships in outstanding material condition.
“Lastly none of these accomplishments would mean anything without a homefire that has burned brightly over the last 25 years. To my two daughters, you have grown into beautiful young women and I am proud of your accomplishments. Your laughter and love has made a world of difference after long days at sea or work. To my wife, you are the love of my life. I can’t imagine any day that wouldn’t be better or brighter because you are there. Thank you for being with me through it all.”
Sievers then issued a final thanks to his Sailors and wished Converse the best.
“I am proud of their efforts and I am particularly pleased to turn over the reigns to an officer that Ii consider to be just the leader to take the organization into the future. Blake, best of luck to you! May God continue to bless our nation and our Navy. Thank you.”
Sievers graduated from West Virginia University in 1987, and received his commission through the Nuclear Power Commissioning Program. He also earned a Masters in Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology.
His sea commands have been onboard the Benjamin Franklin-class ballistic-missile submarine USS George Bancroft (SSBN 743) homeported in Charleston, S.C.; as weapons officer onboard the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 74); and as executive officer onboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720), homeported in Groton, Conn.
Sievers commanded the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Columbia (771), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During his tenure the ship deployed twice to the Western Pacific Ocean, and earned two Meritorius Unit Commendations, the 2005 Pacific Fleet Arleigh Burke Trophy, the 2005 Commander, Submarine Squadron Three Battle “E” award, and the 2006 Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Golden Anchor Retention Award.
His shore tours have been as an instructor and division director for the Enlisted Reactor Plant Technology at Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fla.; operations officer at Commander, Submarine Group Ten, homebased in Kings Bay, Ga.; as the Policy Directorate and Executive Assistant to the Director of Policy, Resources, and Requirements for Commander, U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb.; as the senior member of the Commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic (SUBLANT) Tactical, Readiness and Evaluation Team; and as the SUBLANT Submarine Command Course Instructor.
Converse is a 1987 graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He also holds master’s degrees in Space Systems Engineering and Applied Physics from the Navy Postgraduate School, in Monterey, Calif.
He took over command of the squadron with an anecdote.
“I am truly honored to be entrusted with command of this great submarine squadron at such a pivotal time in our nation,” said Converse. “The pace of submarine operations continues to grow, the mission sets are expanding, and we are continuing to integrate the newest technology to make these incredible warships even more capable. Three of the six submarines assigned to Squadron Six are deployed today across the globe conducting vital missions and participating in multi-national exercises to fortify our international relationships. The quality of the Sailors on these submarines is also remarkable.
“I will leave you with this thought. In 1989, just days after getting married, I reported for duty to the USS Lapon (SSN 661) assigned to Submarine Squadron Six here in Norfolk, as a young ensign. We deployed six days later. Fast forward 11 years, and I found myself reporting to the USS Minneapolis-St Paul for my third submarine sea tour, once again assigned to Submarine Squadron Six. Now, after 24 years of service, I’m returning to the squadron in which I started my career – older and more experienced, yes, but probably not much wiser.
“For my staff and the commanding officers, submarining is a tough and unforgiving job; it demands strong leadership, a passion for excellence, and a large dose of grit. This is my standard and it’s the bar by which I judge your performance. From my observations so far, I am duly impressed. I look forward to working with each and every one of you! I love the Navy, I love the submarine force, and I look forward to serving as Commodore. Thank you!”
SUBRON SIX exercises operational control over seven Los Angeles-class attack submarines home ported in Norfolk, Va. The squadron staff is responsible for training and preparing their submarines and crew in all facets of operations, including tactical and operational readiness for war, inspection and monitoring, nuclear and radiological safety, and development and control of submarine operating schedules.