Capt. Denno Steps Down In Naval Submarine Base Change Of Command
By Jennifer McDermott
The Day
May 31, 2013
Groton — As command of the Naval Submarine Base changed hands Friday, the state's top elected officials declared that the base has a bright future in Connecticut.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the base is now "an integral part of the fabric of southeastern Connecticut," and as the Navy's last operational base in New England, "this is a very special place."
Malloy was the guest speaker at the change-of-command ceremony in which Capt. Marc W. Denno was relieved as the base commander by Capt. Carl A. Lahti.
Malloy said Denno spearheaded the effort to ensure the base is regarded as a premier training facility and deployment base. Nearly $200 million in federal and state funding was spent to modernize the base during Denno's four years in command, which is longer than any of his predecessors.
The fiscal 2014 Department of Defense budget request included $2.4 billion to fund a Base Realignment and Closure process in 2015. The Groton base was nearly closed during the 2005 round.
"There is no threat to this sub base in the future," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told the audience, adding that the centrality of the base to the nation's defense is "absolutely incontrovertible."
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the work over the past four years has "finally cemented the strategic importance of this base in a way we couldn't have expected" when the BRAC fight was first undertaken, and the community "wrapped its arms around this base."
And U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Denno's term will "go down in history as a renaissance" for the installation. The Navy paid for many projects there even in a competitive environment, Courtney said, and he believes the base has "a strong future ahead." The base has a new pier, port operations center, indoor small arms range and synthetic sports field, and many other facilities were upgraded.
Lahti, who most recently worked on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, has served in Groton several times before, including tours aboard the USS Miami and USS Dallas and on the staffs of Submarine Squadron Four and Submarine Development Squadron Twelve. He led the Groton-based USS Memphis on its final deployment.
After touring the base recently, Lahti said it is clear how the team excelled over the last four years.
"I look forward to leading you and our nation's first and finest submarine base as we meet the challenges that lie ahead," he said.
Lahti also told the many state and local officials in the audience that their presence "reaffirms the close cooperation between the state, the community and the sub base."
About 300 local leaders, military members, veterans, families and base supporters attended the ceremony on the base's new sports field. With temperatures in the 80s and rising, sailors passed out bottles of water as guests fanned themselves with their programs. Some of the sailors who were standing in formation along the perimeter of the audience were escorted off the field after they felt faint.
When Rear Adm. Townsend G. Alexander, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, stepped to the podium, he told the sailors to stand at ease. Alexander said Denno did "a superb job" and Lahti will take the base to "an even higher level of success."
Alexander presented Denno with the Legion of Merit, gold star in lieu of second award. The base won the region's annual award for installation excellence twice during Denno's tour.
Rear Adm. Kenneth M. Perry, the commander of Submarine Group Two, also praised Denno for his efforts to ensure that the submarines that sail from the base succeed in their missions, and welcomed Lahti.
Denno said Friday was "truly a great Navy day" because it was a chance to show off the home of the submarine force and highlight the impact the team here has had. He thanked his team in a meeting before the ceremony, so in his speech he expressed his gratitude to the many community organizations and individuals who champion the base. Denno was emotional at the end, when he gave recognition to his family.
He will next work in the operations department at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Denno and Lahti read their orders and saluted each other and Alexander.
Denno said that although he is leaving, the base will "continue as a beacon of service and support to our Navy's fleet, their fighters and families."
"I feel privileged to help the light burn brightly for four wonderful years," Denno said. "I look forward to Subase's shine for many years to come."