By MC1 Steven Khor, Submarine Force Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
Cmdr. Gary Montalvo relieved Cmdr. Richard Rhinehart as commanding officer of the Virginia-class, fast attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) during a time-honored change of command ceremony June 24 at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Rhinehart was emotional as he addressed his Sailors for the last time as their commander. He noted how proud he was that he had the opportunity to be in command of North Carolina and to work with some amazing Sailors.
“What makes this job so amazing are the people and the crew,” said Rhinehart. “Each and every one of you have a shared heritage, not just being fellow brothers of the fin, but of being shipmates on the North Carolina. Together, we took the finest ship of the Pacific Fleet to sea.”
In command for more than three years, Rhinehart took his submarine and crew on two lengthy western Pacific deployments and numerous shorter underway periods.
“Together, we fought to keep the boat at sea, operationally proficient and ready to execute any and all taskings,” said Rinehart. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the sacrifices you made or more proud of what you accomplished.”
The ceremony’s guest speaker, Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarine force, praised Rhinehart for a job well done, taking the submarine on every western Pacific deployment the submarine has made.
“Rich, you and your team have had across-the-board success,” said Sawyer. “These are successes for the submarine force, the U.S. Navy and for our nation. You can be justifiably proud of what you’ve accomplished. Congratulations on a highly successful tour.”
Sawyer also spoke to the assembled crew and guests about the Chief of Naval Operations’ three guiding tenets of warfighting first, operate forward and be ready. Sawyer added that North Carolina exemplified these tenets while playing an important role in achieving national objectives.
During the ceremony, Rhinehart was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his successes in command of North Carolina from April 2011 to June 2014.
As Montalvo assumed command of North Carolina, he thanked Rhinehart for turning over a great ship and a highly enthusiastic crew.
“It is a time like this that reminds me that the strength of the North Carolina is more than just technology and design,” said Montalvo, referring to the importance of the crew on board. “I look forward to being a part of the North Carolina ‘Tar Heel’ team for the next few years.”
Commissioned May 2008, North Carolina is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to carry the name North Carolina. The Virginia-class boat was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, Conn. and Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. and joined the fleet in December 2006.
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.