USS Illinois Welcomes New Commanding Officer

Commander Submarine Forces Pacific
Story by Chief Petty Officer Amanda Gray

Date: 11.08.2019
Posted: 11.08.2019 18:06
News ID: 351192
USS Illinois Welcomes New Commanding Officer

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786) held a change of command ceremony pier side at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Nov. 8.

Cmdr. Ronald Hatt, from Bieber, California, relieved Cmdr. Neil Steinhagen, from Clinton, Iowa, and assumed the duties and responsibilities of the commanding officer.

“I have seen this mighty ship and her amazing crew through a wonderful transition during my three years in command,” said Steinhagen. “Some say, ‘a captain is not a captain without a ship.” I say, ‘a captain is not a captain without his crew.’ To the officers and crew of USS Illinois, thank you is simply not enough for the blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve shed to make these three years the best of my career.”

Capt. Richard E. Seif, chief of staff and deputy commander of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the guest speaker of the ceremony, which was attended by distinguished visitors, family, friends, and crew.

“Illinois’ unmatched success is the result of the incredible leadership of Cmdr. Steinhagen,” said Seif. “Neil took a green and inexperienced crew, on a first of its kind warship into the Pacific, expertly prepared them for an extended deployment, and delivered superb and literally unmatched results. I’m sure Neil would give all the credit to his team, and they deserve the credit, but I’d submit that Neil set the standard every day, and his crew answered the call.”

Illinois was the first Block III Virginia-class submarine to deploy to the Western Pacific area of responsibility. The crew completed an extended, seven-month maiden deployment while maintaining a 90% operational tempo in support of U.S national security interests.

“Deployment bonds a crew like no other moment in a Sailor’s life,” said Steinhagen. “I am both privileged and honored to have taken this warship on her first deployment with you guys. The proudest moment of my naval career was returning from deployment with you. It was the culmination of everything that we’ve worked for, every long night at work in port, every weekend trainer, and every stressful moment at sea.”

Steinhagen’s next assignment will be at Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam.

Hatt previously served on the staff of Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, as the admiral’s executive assistant.

“To the officers and crew of Illinois, you are what makes Illinois the most lethal war machine ever built,” said Hatt. “Without you, it is an expensive hunk of steel, and nothing more. Trust that I have your best interests, and our nation’s needs always in mind; and I trust that each of you will continue to strive for perfection in order to achieve excellence.”

Commissioned Oct. 29, 2016, Illinois is the third ship of the U.S. Navy to bear that name. Illinois is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force; anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare; delivery of special operations forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and mine warfare.