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Commander, Submarine Group Two


Submarine Commanding Officer Receives Leadership Award

By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs 

NORFOLK, Va.    Cmdr. Brian Sittlow, commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Boise (SSN 764), was selected as the U.S. Fleet Forces Command winner of the 2012 Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership award, Sept. 17, 2012.  Boise is home ported at Naval Station, Norfolk, Va.

Sittlow’s recognition was announced via a Chief of Naval Operations Naval Administration message released by Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk, Chief of Naval Personnel who also serves concurrently as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education) (N1).

"The 2012 winners were chosen from among 10 outstanding finalists in a review process that included screening at the Fleet Commander level and final selection by a board of senior officers,” said Van Buskirk.  “Cmdr. Sittlow, as well as all of the nominees, should be justifiably proud of his achievements.  He demonstrated the highest level of leadership reflecting the legacy of Vice Adm. Stockdale."

Vice Adm. Michael Connor, Commander, Submarine Forces (SUBFOR), echoed Van Buskirk’s sentiment.

 “The most important characteristic of a great leader is one that unifies a diverse set of skills and personalities into a single cohesive unit,” said Connor.  “I would say Cmdr. Sittlow does this every moment of the day.  He is one who transforms himself to what is required for a mission and empowers his crew to perform as one.”

The Stockdale Leadership is an annual award established by the Navy more than three decades ago in honor of Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale, a Medal of Honor recipient who epitomized the very essence of leadership during his nearly eight years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam.  During that time, Stockdale relied upon his five, self-defined roles of leadership – moralist, jurist, teacher, steward and philosopher – to help himself and a group of about 11 others, survive the camp.

Stockdale’s distinguished naval career symbolizes the highest standards of excellence in both personal character, example and leadership.  The award is presented to two commissioned officers, one each from the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, who are on active duty below the grade of captain who are in command of a single ship, submarine, aviation squadron, or operational warfare unit, and who best exemplifies the five criteria of inspirational leadership. 

A native of Roberts, Wis., Sittlow became the Boise’s ninth commanding officer when assumed command, Jan.22, 2010.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993, earning a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering.  He earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies in 2009 from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Previous sea assignments have been onboard the Sturgeon-class attack submarine USS Archerfish (SSN 678), home ported in Groton, Conn., where he served in various division officer positions in completing two Mediterranean Sea deployments and an Arctic Ocean deployment.  He served as the Operations Officer for several military and civilian sponsored missions assigned from 1997 to 1999 onboard the Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1, which was a unique U. S. Navy nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine, homeported in Groton, Conn.  While assigned on NR-1 he completed a North Atlantic deployment. 

"Brian served under me aboard Submarine NR-1, at the time the nation's only nuclear deep submergence asset,” said Capt. William Merz, SUBFOR Chief of Staff.  “He ran the operations on the support ship and was my voice for all of the command's activities while I was on the sea floor - in essence, he was often more the commanding officer more than I was!  His unflappable demeanor, tactical brilliance, combined with tremendous compassion for his sailors, epitomized the much sought after qualities of our most valued leaders - his men immediately rally around his leadership, his superiors immediately listen to his advice.  Cmdr. Sittlow has these characteristics naturally and I would have been surprised if he was not selected.  He is and has always been one of our best and I could not be more proud of his accomplishments."

After leaving NR-1, Sittlow reported to the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) (Blue Crew), homeported in Bangor, Wash., where he completed five strategic deterrent patrols as the submarine’s Navigation Officer.  In 2007, Sittlow became the executive officer onboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Virginia (SSN 774), homeported in Groton, Conn., completing first-of- class operational and technical evaluations during his tour.

Before being assigned as the Operations Officer at Commander, Submarine Development Squadron Twelve, homebased in Groton, Conn, Sittlow was the first American to complete the Norwegian Submarine Command “Perisher” Course in 2004.

"Cmdr. Sittlow is truly a leader in the mold of Vice Adm. James Stockdale,” said Capt. Eugene P. Sievers, commander, Submarine Squadron Six, and Sittlow’s Immediate Superior in Command (ISIC).  “He has invested his team on USS Boise, and they have responded with an impressive record of accomplishments including a Squadron Battle "E," the 2010 Battenburg Cup and two highly successful deployments to the European Theater.  All are a testament to his extraordinary leadership.  He would give all credit to his men, but it has been his vision and calm presence that has been integral to their every success."

Candidates must be nominated by their peers, who themselves must be eligible for the award.   Sittlow was nominated by Cmdr. Seth Burton, commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 756), also homeported in Norfolk, Va.

“Cmdr. Sittlow embodies all personal aspects for the Stockdale Leadership Award and USS Boise’s numerous accomplishments and readiness to conduct deployed operations are a direct result of his dedicated leadership initiatives,” said Burton in his nomination letter.  “I have observed his calm but inspirational leadership and stalwart dedication to constant improvement across numerous lines of operation.

“His crew's dedication and achievements culminated in selection of Boise as the 2010 Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Battenberg Cup winner for the best ship in the Atlantic Fleet.  Cmdr. Sittlow's leadership abilities and professional excellence are in perfect synchronization with the motto of the ship he commands: "A One Ship Fleet!"

During the past year, Boise has successfully executed every major ship's inspection and certified for overseas deployment.  Sittlow's direct approach to the professional development of his crew contributed to an unprecedented advancement of 51 first class, second class, and third class petty officers; promotion of one Master Chief and his selection for CMDCM; the selection of three Senior Chiefs and four Chiefs;  two qualifications for Chief of the Boat (COB); two qualifications for Engineering Department Master Chief (EDMC); and one qualification for Submarine Command.

“Cmdr. Sittlow's leadership approach can be summed up in three words,

"Focused on People," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Flaherty, who served as the Boise Navigator and Operations Officer under Sittlow from January 2010 to February 2011, and is currently the SUBFOR Flag Aide.  “Boise crew members and especially their families were always his number one priority.   CDR Sittlow continuously stressed the importance of Boise's Family Readiness Group and he relentlessly communicated with the group on a regular basis. 

“As a result of his dedicated focus on families, Boise completed a deployment to the European theater in 2010 with no lost time on station due to HUMEVACs, MEDEVACs, or personnel issues.  This is almost unheard of nowadays.  He has an uncanny ability to sort through the chaff and prioritize the mission at hand.  His mantra was to always ‘keep the main thing the main thing.’  Cmdr. Sittlow was completely dedicated to training his young Sailors and officers.  Above and beyond the mission, he always stressed the importance of building depth on the ship and in the submarine force.  He was laser focused on providing his junior officers and Sailors the tools necessary to succeed at the next level.

"Cmdr Sittlow's hands-on deckplate leadership and mentoring combined with his strategic vision are his greatest attributes.  His confident, yet humble approach to leading the Boise crew helped each Sailor grow and feel empowered to make decisions and take decisive action.  Cmdr. Sittlow started each week by preaching that ‘Submarining is the ultimate team sport.’  Boise is an unbeatable team and he is the ultimate coach.”

Fast-attack submarines like Boise 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.

Nicknamed “A One Ship Fleet,” Boise is the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of Idaho’s capital city.  Built by Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat Division, Boise was commissioned, November 7, 1992.  The 360-foot ship has a crew compliment of 13 officers and 121 enlisted Sailors.