Stafford relieves Gonzalez as commanding officer of USS Cheyenne

(Via Ho’okele News)

Cmdr. Noel Gonzalez (right), turns over command of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) to Cmdr. John Stafford, witnessed by Capt. Craig Blakely, commander of Submarine Squadron Seven.

Story and photo by MC1 Jason Swink

Submarine Force Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

The command of USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) was passed on Sept. 12 as Cmdr. John Stafford relieved Cmdr. Noel Gonzalez as commanding officer. The change of command ceremony was held aboard the Los Angeles-class, fast attack submarine at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

“I am so proud of you guys,” Gonzalez said to his crew. “I don’t have the words to tell you how much gratitude I feel for all we have done in the past 30 months.”

“You have provided me with unbelievable support and dedication,” said Gonzalez. “It has been a privilege and an absolute honor to be your eighth commanding officer.”

In command since May 11, 2012, Gonzalez led his submarine to complete a successful western Pacific deployment and was awarded the 2013 Battle Efficiency Award.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the guest speaker and praised Gonzalez and his crew.

“From the time he took command, he set out to sharpen this already high-performance crew into one with a reputation of achievement and success,” said Harris.

Born in Cuba, Gonzalez emigrated with his family from Camaguey, Cuba to the United States to pursue a better life.

“Noel, you have certainly lived that dream, from a little boy of 10 that couldn’t speak English, to the commanding officer of a nuclear-powered submarine,” said Harris. “I hope you continue to tell your story and inspire others you meet to reach for the stars and reach their full potential.”

During the ceremony, Gonzalez, who now hails from West Palm Beach, Fla., was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his successes in command of Cheyenne from May 2012 to August 2014.

As Stafford assumed command of Cheyenne, he thanked Gonzalez for the state in which Cheyenne and its crew are in.

“No officer could count himself more blessed than to be a member of the Cheyenne family, let alone command this great warship and her fine crew,” said Stafford, who calls Staten Island, N.Y. his home.

Homeported in Pearl Harbor, USS Cheyenne is named after the city of Cheyenne, Wyo. It is the 62nd Los Angeles-class submarine and the 23rd improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine. The ship’s sponsor, Ann Simpson, wife of former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, christened Cheyenne on April 1, 1995. The ship has since lived by the city’s motto, “Live the Legend.”

In 2001, Cheyenne earned the distinction of “first to strike” when it was the first ship to launch Tomahawk missiles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, the submariners aboard have modified the motto to “Ride the Legend,” representative of the warrior spirit of the crew and the pride they take in their mission and sponsor city.

For more information about Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit http://www.csp.navy.mil.

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