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USS Helena Conducts Change of Command - The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN 725)
By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Cmdr. Jason Pittman relieved Cmdr. Jeffrey Lamphear as commanding officer of Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) during a change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, June 15.

Guest speaker was Capt. Blake Converse, chief of staff, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic.

"Today's ceremony is one of the Navy's most cherished and important traditions," said Converse. "It represents the continuing recognition of who we are and what we truly value as a Navy. The absolute nature of command, the ultimate responsibility and accountability that comes with the job, and the art and science of leadership when leadership really matters -- when lives, security, and honor are on the line. That is important, because the business these men preside over is deadly serious business.

"In 2013, when I took command of Submarine Squadron 6, USS Helena was not doing well. I would have to say that they were probably one of my most challenged warships in the squadron. Jeff had been onboard for just a couple of months and was still getting his arms around the extent of the ship's challenges when the first major inspection rolled around - and it did not go well. But Jeff is a well-known independent and decisive leader who takes on challenges head on ... and never quits.

"Over the next six months, he executed one of the most impressive cultural transformations I have ever seen, preparing his crew for an extended deployment, and deploying in excellent material condition with a highly trained, fully combat ready team. Jeff, as you turn over command, I am personally and professionally grateful for your service. Jeff, please accept my congratulations on a job superbly well done. I know you'll miss the team here, but know that the hard work you started here will continue in the capable hands of Cmdr. Jason Pittman."

Capt. Paul Snodgrass, commander, Submarine Squadron 6, presented Lamphear with his second Meritorious Service Medal commending him for performing his "demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner.

His exceptional leadership was instrumental in the preparation for and execution of two six-month deployments with operations covering the 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility."

Under the command of Lamphear, the submarine completed two major deployments. Helena just returned from a European Command and Central Command deployment in May 2015, and completed a Central Command deployment in October 2013. During these deployments the crew executed the Chief of Naval Operations' Maritime Strategy in conducting Maritime Security Operations supporting national security interests.

Lamphear, a native of Livonia, Michigan, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Mechanics.

"This has been a great tour and it has been a privilege to lead the crew of the Helena and twice take this ship half way around the world to execute our missions," said Lamphear. "I have been able to enjoy this tour because I was blessed with an exceptional crew. While the men and women of the submarine force are selected from the brightest individuals in the Navy, we always had a mix of crew members on Helena who maintained an easy camaraderie, a high morale and were always eager and ready to meet the next challenge.

"Only 20 or so of the current Helena Sailors were part of the crew when I took command three years ago," he continued. "That means most of these men have been in the Navy less than 5 years, but already have two deployments under their belts and have operated in the European, Central and Pacific Command theaters of operation. They made the second deployment within two-thirds the typical turn around time. In this short period they completed all the maintenance and training required to get the ship ready and build the proficiency required to conduct operations in some of the most challenging areas submarines operate.

"For the crew, you guys rock. I am very proud of your performance and honored to be able to call you my shipmates. I am happy to turn the reins over to Cmdr. Jason Pittman, and I know with him at the helm you will continue to excel and improve, and that I will be hearing great things about the Helena in the years to come."

Pittman, a native of Killeen, Texas, is a graduate of the University of Texas where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music. He also holds a master's degree in Education from Troy State and a master's in National Security and Strategy from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

"I am honored and humbled to stand before you today, on the deck of this magnificent ship, in front of so many friends, family, mentors, and more importantly, the crew and families of USS Helena. I am thrilled to taking command today. Jeff, I thank you for giving me such a great crew and fine ship. Your dedication, professionalism and expertise are directly reflected in the reputation of the ship.

"To the crew and families of Helena, thanks for your warm welcome. Thank you for everything you have already accomplished and for everything we will achieve together. You are truly the lifeblood of this ship and, to paraphrase Roosevelt, it is only through you that we can accomplish all things good in this world.

"Guardians, proud and fearless, I am honored to serve among you; I am humbled to be chosen to lead you; I look forward to the pursuit of greatness with you."

Fast-attack submarines like Helena are multimission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities -- sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence. The submarine is designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare -- from open ocean anti-submarine warfare to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to projecting power ashore with Special Operations Forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.

Helena is the 38th Los Angeles-class attack submarine and fourth ship to bear the name of the capital city, Helena, Montana. The submarine was built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, Connecticut, and commissioned July 11, 1987. The 360-foot ship has a current crew compliment of 15 officers and 129 enlisted Sailors, and displaces more than 7,100 tons of water.

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Monique K. Meeks
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