By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic (SUBLANT) held a change of command ceremony for the command's force master chief at SUBLANT headquarters in Norfolk July 26.
Force Master Chief (Submarines) Kirk Saunders relieved Force Master Chief Jeffery Garrison as SUBLANT force master chief.
Garrison served as the SUBLANT force master chief from October 2007 to July 2010. He will report to Commander, Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn., as the Navy's command master chief detailer.
During the ceremony, Vice Adm. John Donnelly, commander, Submarine Forces/commander, SUBLANT, presented Garrison with a Legion of Merit medal. Garrison was cited for his impressive resourcefulness in providing the force commander and the master chier petty officer of the Navy valuable insight, guidance and deckplate perspective. He was also recognized for his visionary approach in implementing numerous initiatives, which positively affected more than 22,000 submarine Sailors in the Atlantic Fleet. In mentoring five group master chiefs, 15 squadron master chiefs and 91 chiefs of the boat, Garrison relentlessly delivered changes to senior enlisted leadership, which led to innovative growth and immensely contributed to the education of junior enlisted.
"I am looking forward to working with the force commander in continuing the legacy left by Force Garrison," said Saunders. "It is an honor and privilege in having the opportunity to help mold and influence the tremendous Sailors operating our submarine force. For me, it is the ultimate dream come true being selected as the force master chief, and having the chance to mentor and develop our senior enlisted leaders and enlisted force."
Saunders believes his previous assignments have prepared him for the challenges that are in his future.
"My opportunity to lead as both chief of the boat and a squadron command master chief has provided me an incredible insight to the difficulties and challenges we face day-to-day in the submarine force. The challenges I faced in those leadership roles and the efforts required to resolve them and persevere during adversity has prepared me well to lead at this level," said Saunders.
In the last several months there have been two huge social changes in the submarine force - women being assigned to submarines and smoking cessation on submarines - that will require tremendous leadership engagement in the chief's community.
"I believe the chief's mess leadership is critical in everything we do, not only in the submarine force, but in the Navy as a whole," said Saunders. "The acceptance of women to serve aboard submarines and eliminating smoking aboard submarines is no different. The submarine force's ability to benefit from the incredible leadership and expertise women will bring to our force will only make us better. Education across all levels of the chain-of-command will ensure there is a smooth transition in these cultural shifts, and the emphasis on professional behavior will guarantee that success. I have no doubt our chief's community will realize the benefit of these changes and lead the way in the transition."
"The submarine force has taken incredible measures to help Sailors who have chosen to kick the smoking habit. The use of both education by trained facilitators and nicotine replacement therapies have already been distributed to the force. Command leadership teams are taking a proactive role in limiting the use of tobacco on board their ships in an effort to gradually phase in to having smoke-free submarines. This change will not only benefit the smokers' long term health, but the health of the non-smoker receiving second-hand smoke. Although reluctance to change is normal, I have no doubt our senior enlisted leaders will lead the charge in accepting the changes," said Saunders.
Saunders joined the Navy in July 1987 and attended recruit training in San Diego, Basic Submarine School in Groton, Conn., and Torpedoman Class "A" School in Orlando, Fla.
His first submarine assignment was aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Richard B. Russell (SSN 687), homeported in Mare Island, Calif. There he qualified in submarines, earning the coveted silver dolphins. Other sea tours have included assignments aboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarines USS Norfolk (SSN 714), where he served as the torpedo division leading chief petty officer, and USS Boise (SSN 764), where he served as the chief of the boat.
His shore assignments include Navy Recruiting District Miami, Fla., where he served as a production recruiter, and recruiter-in-charge; Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet where he served as the senior enlisted leader and weapons evaluator on the Tactical Readiness Evaluation Team; and Commander, Submarine Squadron 11 in San Diego where he served as command master chief.
Saunders is a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy Class 112 (Blue) and the Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat Course Class 10.
He is entitled to wear the Meritorious Service medal (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal (four awards), Navy Good Conduct medal (seven awards) and other unit and campaign awards.