Cmdr. Thomas J. Niebel turned command of the future Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 795) over to Cmdr. Matthew H. Beach in a traditional change of command ceremony held Friday, Aug. 27, at the historic USS Nautilus (SSN 571) on the Groton waterfront.
“It has been an honor to work with this crew and the shipbuilders as we built not only the future USS Hyman G. Rickover, but the crew to take her to sea as the newest and most advanced attack submarine in the world,” said Niebel. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. I will deeply miss the Rickover crew, and I know that they will successfully deliver a ship that is ready to support the Submarine Force’s missions under the capable and inspiring leadership of Cmdr. Beach.”
The future USS Hyman G. Rickover was christened at the General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard in Groton on July 31. The Rickover is part of Submarine Squadron 4, whose commanding officer, Capt. John Stafford, presided over Friday’s ceremony.
Capt. Jason M. Deichler, director of training at the Naval Submarine School and a longtime friend of Niebel, lauded Niebel’s efforts to provide crew members opportunities to pursue professional development and enrichment opportunities while working in the shipyard, including deployments on operational submarines nearby. That care for his sailors’ advancements led to two consecutive Retention Excellence Awards for his Rickover crew, he said.
“I am confident we will speak of the crew of the Hyman G. Rickover for years to come,” Deichler said.
“Cmdr. Niebel has done an incredible job preparing his crew and this state-of-the-art submarine to join America’s Navy,” said Beach. “His team has proudly carried on the legacy of Adm. Rickover through their relentless pursuit of excellence, and I am honored to embark on this journey to protect our great nation.”
The site of the ceremony was particularly significant for this command. USS Nautilus, commissioned in 1954 as the first nuclear-powered submarine, was designed and constructed by Hyman G. Rickover’s team of engineers. Rickover’s advocacy for nuclear propulsion and work on the Nautilus project earned him the nickname “Father of the Nuclear Navy.”
Rickover served on active duty in the Navy for 63 years and retired in 1982 at the rank of admiral. Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and has served as a museum ship at Groton’s Submarine Force Library and Museum since 1986.
The Virginia-class submarine is the second submarine to bear the name of Rickover. The first Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709) was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine commissioned on July 21, 1984. SSN 709 and its crew deployed 12 times until its decommissioning in December 2007. Over the years, its decorations included the Atlantic Fleet Golden Anchor Award, Submarine Squadron Eight’s anti-submarine warfare white “A” and engineering red “E” awards and the prestigious Sixth Fleet “Hook ‘Em” award for anti-submarine warfare excellence.
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.