By By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink,
Submarine Force Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- The command of USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) was passed on today, Sept. 12, as Cmdr. Noel Gonzalez was relieved by Cmdr. John Stafford as commanding officer at a change of command ceremony held aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine at the submarine piers on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Gonzalez choked back tears as he expressed how proud he is of having had the opportunity to lead his crew.
"I am so proud of you guys," said Gonzalez to his crew. "I don't have the words to tell you how much gratitude I feel for all we have done in the past 30 months."
"You have provided me with unbelievable support and dedication," said Gonzalez. "It has been a privilege and an absolute honor to be your 8th commanding officer."
In command since May 11, 2012, Gonzalez led his submarine to complete a successful Western Pacific deployment, and was awarded the 2013 Battle Efficiency Award.
The ceremony's guest speaker, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised Gonzalez and his crew.
"From the time he took command, he set out to sharpen this already high-performance crew into one with a reputation of achievement and success," said Harris.
Born in Cuba, Gonzalez emigrated with his family from Camaguey, Cuba, to the United States to pursue a better life.
"Noel, you have certainly lived that dream, from a little boy of 10 that couldn't speak English, to the commanding officer of a nuclear-powered submarine," said Harris. "I hope you continue to tell your story and inspire others you meet to reach for the stars and reach their full potential."
During the ceremony, Gonzalez, who now hails from West Palm Beach, Florida, was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his successes in command of Cheyenne from May 2012 to Aug. 2014.
As Stafford assumed command of Cheyenne, he thanked Gonzalez for the state in which Cheyenne and her crew are in.
"No officer could count himself more blessed than to be a member of the Cheyenne family, let alone command this great warship and her fine crew," said Stafford, who calls Staten Island, New York, home.
Homeported in Pearl Harbor, USS Cheyenne is named after the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it is the 62st Los Angeles-class submarine and the 23rd Improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine. The ship's sponsor, Ann Simpson, wife of former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, christened Cheyenne on April 1, 1995. The ship since, has lived by the city's motto, "Live the Legend."
In 2001, Cheyenne earned the distinction of "first to strike" when she was the first ship to launch Tomahawk missiles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, the submariners aboard have modified the motto to "Ride the Legend," representative of the warrior spirit of the crew and the pride they take in their mission and sponsor city.