USS Texas holds change of command

Laura Bush, former First Lady of the United States and ship's sponsor, speaks at the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) change of command ceremony held at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Feb. 1. Cmdr. Robert Roncska, former naval aide to the president of the United States from 2006 to 2008, was relieved as commanding officer of Texas by Cmdr. Andrew Hertel.

Story and photo by MC2 Ronald Gutridge

Commander Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Office

Cmdr. Andrew Hertel relieved Cmdr. Robert Roncska as commanding officer of the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) during a time-honored change of command ceremony Feb. 1. The event was held at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl HarborHickam.

Former First Lady of the United States and ship’s sponsor, Laura Bush, praised Roncska, a native of Dunkirk, N.Y. and former naval aide to the president of the United States from 2006 to 2008, for his exceptional performance while commanding Texas, as well as the crew on their accomplishments under Roncska’s leadership.

“USS Texas embodies the very best ideals of her namesake state: endurance, courage, loyalty and quiet strength. Nowhere are these virtues more visible than in her crew,” Bush said. “Today we thank Cmdr. Roncska for his outstanding service and leadership as the commander of Texas. I see what the crew of the USS Texas knows well, that he is a great officer and a natural leader.”

Rear Adm. Bruce Grooms, assistant deputy, operations, plans and strategy (N3/N5B) on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, also spoke to the assembled crowd. Roncska had served under Grooms’ command aboard USS Asheville (SSN 758) from 1997 to 1999.

“Texas is an extremely successful command certainly led by a wonderful commanding officer, but it is always the crew that carries out the commander’s intentions. So to you, the crew of Texas, I salute you,” Grooms said. “I think we have proven time and time again that it really is possible to have fun at what you do, treat each other as a family, but still get the work done. And Texas, under Cmdr. Roncska, has proven that.”

Cmdr. Robert Roncska is piped ashore after being relieved as commanding officer of the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) by Cmdr. Andrew Hertel at a change of command ceremony held Feb. 1 at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Roncska acknowledged that the majority of the submarine’s success during his time as commanding officer could be attributed to the crew and their hard work efforts.

“To the crew of Texas, you are the finest assembly of talent that I have ever had the privilege to work with,” Roncska said. “Clearly, Texas accomplished some amazing feats while I was in command, but years from now I am not going to reminisce about these accomplishments and the impact we had to our national security. What I will think about is the personal experiences we shared and the lifelong friends I have made.”

Following his remarks, Roncska was awarded the Legion of Merit for his exceptional performance as commanding officer from July 2009 to February 2012.

In his closing remarks, Roncska reflected on his time on Texas and at sea.

“In many ways it seems like yesterday that I stood at the podium in Groton, Conn. to accept the responsibility of command, but when I recall my command experiences, I know it was not yesterday,” he said. “Words cannot describe what it was like to be a part of this awesome Texas family, and it was truly an honor to be your commanding officer.”

As Hertel assumed command of Texas, he addressed the crew about the future.

“Texas is a technical marvel of a submarine and more capable than any other platform at bringing the fight to the enemy,” Hertel said. “We must maintain ourselves on the razor’s edge, ensuring we are ready when the time comes to answer our nation’s call.”

Commissioned Sept. 9, 2006, Texas was the second Virginia-class attack submarine constructed and the first submarine to be named after the Lone Star State.

The state-of-the-art submarine is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Roncska’s personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal (five awards).

He will report to the staff of Commander Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet as the submarine command course prospective commanding officer instructor.

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