USS Annapolis Welcomes New Commander
GROTON, Conn. - Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton July 12.
Cmdr. Chester T. Parks relieved Cmdr. John Gearhart during the time-honored ceremony. Capt. William Merz, chief of staff, commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic, and former commander of Submarine Development Squadron Twelve, spoke at the ceremony and praised both men for their leadership.
"You've taken Annapolis all over the world and I would serve with you anytime, just give me a call," said Merz with a smile. "Some commands go into harm's way and submarines like the one under Commander John Gearhart, live there."
Gearhart was also recognized for expertise in carrying out multiple deployments while in command of USS Annapolis.
"Your warfighting team executed two arduous deployments to the U.S. Central Command," said Vice Adm. John Richardson, commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic in a naval message praising Gearhart for his achievements. "Not only did you expertly conduct these assignments vital to national security, your team professional represented the United States Submarine Force during numerous training exercises that fostered critical partnerships with key allies."
Under Gearhart's leadership, Annapolis was recognized for numerous accolades to include: Battle Efficiency "E" award for 2011; Deck "D" award for 2010; Administration "A" award for 2010 and 2011; Supply "E" award for 2010 and 2011, and the 2011 Chief of Naval Operations Afloat Safety Award for Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic.
Gearhart's change of command ceremony follows the submarine's recent return from deployment on June 27. Annapolis departed for deployment Jan. 3 and conducted maritime security and theater security cooperation efforts in the 5th and 6th Fleet area of operations.
Gearhart reflected on his time in command of USS Annapolis.
"I'm honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to have been a part of naval history while in command of Annapolis," said Gearhart. "It also has been a privilege to work with so many of these men who have given so much for their country."
Gearhart added that the operational requirements for USS Annapolis during his command tour required the attack submarine to complete two deployments.
"During these last two deployments over a 32-month period there was a high demand placed on my Sailors and their families and their collective service to our nation was nothing short of remarkable," said Gearhart, who was accompanied by his immediate family and parents, Harry and Sandy Gearhart.
Merz also remarked on Parks' preparedness and capabilities on assumption of duties as commanding officer. "You are well prepared and trained for this position; enjoy every single minute of it," said Merz.
Parks, like Gearhart, stands ready to assume command of the warship named in honor of the capital city in Maryland.
"I look forward with honor and privilege to assume the duties of commanding officer of USS Annapolis," said Parks, whose parents, Gary and Paula Parks also attended the ceremony.
Parks, who entered the U.S. Navy in 1994, added that the last time his parents attended an official naval ceremony was when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy 18 years ago.
"It's an honor to have both my immediate family and my parents attend the ceremony," said Parks. "I look forward to taking my place in the history of command leadership of Annapolis."
Parks' is a third generation Sailor to serve in the Navy. Parks' father retired from the Navy during his plebe year at the Naval Academy. His father served in Vietnam and retired as a chief gunner's mate. His grandfather served in the Navy during World War II from 1941-1946.
Prior to assuming the new position as commanding officer of USS Annapolis, Parks served as the Fleet Readiness Officer for the Commander, United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Gearhart's next assignment will be with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington, D.C.
Annapolis was commissioned April 11, 1992. It is the fourth warship to bear the name of Annapolis.