Winter Relieves Benjamin as USS Montpelier Commanding Officer
NORFOLK, Va. – Cmdr. Thomas A. Winter relieved Capt. Mark B. Benjamin as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765) today during a change of command ceremony held on Naval Station Norfolk.
Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Forces/Submarine Force Atlantic/Allied Submarine Command was the principal speaker at the ceremony.
“Our nation has and will continue to demand much from the submarine force,” said Donnelly. “Our ability to respond to those demands ultimately rests on the shoulders of our submarine commanding officers. It’s a big job and one that requires a strong leader with energy, vision, warfighting expertise and, above all else, the leadership skills to inspire our submariners and those who support them.
“Capt. Mark Benjamin is certainly that type of leader and he has clearly excelled here. He took command of Montpelier on July 25, 2008, just over 27 months ago. In that time, he’s clearly demonstrated his leadership and tactical skills. The first thing that comes to mind was a spectacular deployment to the Central Command Area of Operations in 2009. He prepared his crew and led them through enormously successful missions in high-contact density, shallow water environments in and around the Arabian Gulf.
“He debriefed his deployment to the entire chain of command from the commodore, group commander through me to Adm. Harvey at U.S. Fleet Forces, and all the way to the Chief of Naval Operations. Only the best deployments are briefed that high. The insights he gained during that deployment have been factored into subsequent deployments to make our operations in that part of the world safer. Mark, you have done impressive work as Montpelier’s commanding officer and you have made a positive difference.
“The submarine force is indeed fortunate to have another great leadership team to assume the responsibilities of command of Montpelier. Cmdr. Tom Winter has proven himself a fine leader and his extensive experience makes him especially well-suited to continue the outstanding performance of Montpelier and to build upon the legacy of excellence that Mark Benjamin leaves behind.”
Donnelly then presented Benjamin with the Legion of Merit Medal (LOM) for his exceptionally meritorious conduct as commanding officer in USS Montpelier, and specifically for his outstanding performance while conducting three challenging missions vital to national security during a deployment to the Central Command Area of responsibility. Montpelier’s tactical successes during the deployment directly resulted in noteworthy changes to operational strategies and strategic policies in the Central Command Region. The LOM is sixth in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations.
Benjamin, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla., assumed command of Montpelier in July 2008, attributed his successes to the leaders who preceded him and to his current mentors.
“Adm. Donnelly, thank you for those kind words,” said Benjamin quote, who received his commission in 1989 from Georgia Institute of Technology, where he graduated with high honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering. “As my first commanding officer onboard the submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover here in Norfolk, you taught me the ropes. I have always considered you to be our force’s finest example of an officer and gentleman. It was an honor to have you aside my warship with me this morning.
“There is freedom through honor, and honor amongst honorable men. We bear true faith and allegiance to those who fought before us and to those who taught us the ethical code of integrity. Some of those men are here today, and gentlemen, in the shadow of your legacy, I learned to lead, and I thank you for your fine example.
“Honorable legacies are being forged at a breakneck pace in the submarine force right now. Electronic navigation has replaced the paper chart; combat systems hardware and software are now aggressively upgraded every two years; women will serve on submarines for the first time starting next year; and the smoking lamp will be secured forever, below decks onboard submarines at the end of this calendar year. I am sure that all of these changes are being made with noble, honorable intentions, and I applaud the initiative and vision of our leadership.”
But most of all Benjamin wanted to thank the men of Montpelier and his family.
“There is freedom through courage, and courage amongst courageous men, who support and defend our national interests, making decisions in the interest of the country without regards to personal consequences. To my fearless officers and crew, the warriors of Montpelier, while deployed in undisclosed, hostile waters last year, you faced the enemy, and you did not blink. With eyes wide open, Montpelier persevered, steadfastly and meticulously recording every detail of his capabilities, his operational patterns, and his strategic directives. Montpelier brought the fight to the enemy, and returned home safely with the enemy’s secrets deep in her belly. In Latin, “Audaces Fortuna Juvat”…our motto, translated, “fortune favors the bold,” and bold warriors these men were like the red-eyed, attacking catamount in our ship’s seal. When marred by challenges, they persevered.
“Montpelier’s philosophy is FIRE – families, integrity, respect and excellence. Treating each other as family, with integrity and respect, we achieve excellence. We subscribe to this philosophy, however, we also recognize that our successes hinge on the selfless commitment and sacrifice from our families, friends, and supporting professionals. Commitment amongst dedicated families and friends who understand that sacrifice is the necessary cost for the freedoms that we enjoy.
“To my family here today, to my extended family, to my friends and neighbors, thank you all for a lifetime of good times and never-ending support. I am blessed to have you here today. To my son, Bradley, thank you for taking care of your mom while I was at sea. To my beautiful bride of 14 years, Bernadette, I love you. Your commitment to this crew and dedication to our family are tireless. You sacrifice without complaining; you deserve all the credit. Without you, this man would not be standing before this crowd today. I owe you everything.
“Montpelier, it was an honor to lead such a courageous and capable group of warriors. I salute you.”
Benjamin’s next assignment will be as Deputy Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen in Guam. Winter’s last duty assignment was at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA 08) where he served as the Special Assistant to the Director, Nuclear Propulsion, for Officer Personnel and Policy Matters.
A native of Shippensburg, Pa., Winter graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering.
“There are many reasons why men choose to join the Navy and volunteer for the submarine force,” said Winter. “But one reason is we all share a deep desire to serve this great country of ours. Our freedom is a powerful, yet fragile, commodity. We must be strong in our resolve to defend our freedom, our way of life, and our nation from those who would do us harm. Montpelier is a technological marvel, and a powerful force in that defense of freedom. But this submarine is merely a hulk of metal without the men who man her, without the men who bring her to life, and implore her to be that powerful defender of freedom that this country so desperately needs.
“To the men of Montpelier, your nation expects a lot from you. I expect a lot from you, and I expect your best. Our nation deserves nothing less. I promise you that for as long as I have the honor, privilege, and responsibility of being your commanding officer, I will give you my best. Together, we will continue to provide this great nation of ours with the awesome capabilities of a warship worthy of the proud name Montpelier.
“Over the past month, it became clear to me that this is a special crew. Because of the nature of our business, there is in every submarine crew a sense of camaraderie. Montpelier has that camaraderie, but it also has an esprit-de-corps that is something special, a feeling of true family that is unique to Montpelier. I am excited to be joining this extraordinary Montpelier family.”
Montpelier is the third ship in the U.S. Navy to be named for the city of Montpelier,Vt. Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company and Drydock Company, the “Mighty Monty” was commissioned March 13, 1993. Montpelier was the first submarine to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The submarine has a crew complement of 15 officers and 129 enlisted, 360-feet long, and can travel in excess of 25 knots.
Fast-attack submarines like Montpelier 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.
101104-N-7705S-061 NORFOLK, Va. (November 4, 2010) – Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Forces, speaks during the USS Montpelier (SSN 765) change of command ceremony as Capt. Mark Benjamin (left) and Capt. Eugene P. Sievers, Commander, Submarine Squadron Six listen. Cmdr. Thomas A. Winter relieved Benjamin as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine during the ceremony held November 4, 2010 at Naval Station Norfolk. U.S. navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer.
101104-N-7705S-070 NORFOLK, Va. (November 4, 2010) – Capt. Mark Benjamin is awarded the Legion of Merit by Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Forces, as Capt. Eugene P. Sievers, Commander, Submarine Squadron Six, observes. Benjamin was relieved by Cmdr. Thomas A. Winter as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765) during a change of command ceremony held November 4, 2010 at Naval Station Norfolk. U.S. navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer.
101104-N-7705S-072 NORFOLK, Va. (November 4, 2010) – Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Forces, enjoys a laugh with Capt. Mark Benjamin during a change of command ceremony onboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765). Benjamin was relieved by Cmdr. Thomas A. Winter as commanding officer during a change of command ceremony held November 4, 2010 at Naval Station Norfolk. U.S. navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer.
101104-N-7705S-082 NORFOLK, Va. (November 4, 2010) – Capt. Mark B. Benjamin speaks during a change of command ceremony onboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765) held November 4, 2010 at Naval Station Norfolk. Benjamin was relieved by Cmdr. Thomas A. Winter as commanding officer during the ceremony. U.S. navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer.