January 22, 2021
Photo and Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B Zingaro
WRIGHTSTOWN, NJ (BURLINGTON)–PEARL HARBOR, HI — The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) conducted a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Jan. 22.
Cmdr. Samuel Bell, from Wrightstown, New Jersey, relieved Cmdr. John Gonser, from Amityville, New York, as Cheyenne’s commanding officer, during the ceremony which was held in the Submarine Squadron 1 War Room.
“USS Cheyenne has a storied legacy in the submarine force,” said Gonser. “Sailors are rightfully proud to join that tradition. When I took command, I challenged the crew to make those who came before us, who built that legacy, proud of us. For the past 41 months, this crew did just that. I am humbled and awed to call each and every one of them a shipmate.”
Under Gonser’s command, Cheyenne completed two Western Pacific deployments, in which they conducted five missions vital to national security and five exercises that expanded undersea warfighting experimentation. Cheyenne received the Battle Excellence (“E”) Award in 2020, the Navigation (“N”) Award in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and the Retention Excellence Award in 2018 and 2019. Over 150 submariners earned their Submarine Warfare designators with Gonser at the helm.
“Thank you for staying positive and connected through a schedule that would have been challenging even if COVID-19 did not exist,” said Gonser. “While I cannot discuss the nature of the operations, these Sailors helped preserve our national defense for today while building the next generation of undersea warriors.”
Gonser is going to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon.
Capt. Michael Majewski, commodore, Submarine Squadron 7, presided over the small ceremony, consisting only of essential personnel due to COVID-19 mitigations and safety procedures in place.
“Cheyenne has been my go to boat since I became commodore of Squadron 7 last year, but she was the go to boat long before that,” said Majewski. “She is the most capable 688 in the fleet and has proven it time and again with her performance.”
Bell comes from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“The Cheyenne is well known in the submarine force as a command where Sailors want to be, and has recently been recognized for continued excellence,” said Bell. “I look forward to becoming a part of the legend.”
Cheyenne was commissioned Sept. 13, 1996 and is the third ship to be named after Cheyenne, Wyoming in the United States Navy. Measuring 360 feet long and displacing more than 6,900 tons, Cheyenne has a crew of approximately 140 Sailors. Cheyenne is capable of supporting various missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike warfare, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.