change of command

Rear Adm. Michael Holland, left, and Rear Adm. Randy Crites salute each other during a change of command ceremony Thursday at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, as Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo looks on.

Gordon Jackson/The Brunswick News

ST. MARYS — Rear Adm. Michael Holland faces a tumultuous start as the new commanding officer of Submarine Group 10.

He replaced Rear Adm. Randy Crites in a change of command ceremony Thursday at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, just as an evacuation order was issued while Hurricane Irma churns in the Caribbean on a path toward Coastal Georgia.

Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander, Submarine Forces, Submarine Force Atlantic and Allied Submarine Command, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

Tofalo briefly acknowledged the approaching storm, then described the significance of the ceremony.

“This transition has been observed for centuries,” he said.

He praised Crites for “superior” performance during his command.

“Under your leadership over the past two years, your team has been responsible for eight of the most capable and most powerful naval platforms the world has ever known,” Tofalo said. “Strategic deterrence has arguably prevented major power war for over 70 years, and you and the entire team at Kings Bay make that happen.”

A new START treaty that will go into effect in February will add an increased responsibility, with Ohio-class submarines at Kings Bay and in Bangor, Wash., carrying 70 percent of the nation’s ballistic nuclear missiles used for strategic deterrence against nuclear attack.

Tofalo said the boats are “foundational to the survival of our nation.”

The missions performed by the two guided missile submarines perform missions vital to national security, with many of the missions “approved at the highest level of government,” he said.

Tofalo, who previously served at Kings Bay, praised Kings Bay, noting the base has won the Omaha Trophy for the Navy’s best ballistic-missile submarine seven of the past nine years.

“Team Kings Bay gets the mission done. None of it happens by accident,” he said.

At the end of his speech, he expressed confidence in Holland’s ability to take over the command of Submarine Group 10.

“I know you are ready to hit the ground running,” he said.

Crites was awarded the Legion of Merit during the ceremony, where he credited sailors and workers at Kings Bay for his success.

“As a commander, I’ve been blessed with an amazing team, not just my staff here at Group 10, but across the various commands on this critically important base,” he said. “The collective team at Kings Bay has preformed at a remarkable level and was frequently recognized by outside organizations and Navy senior leadership for their sustained superior performance.”

Crites left after the ceremony to drive to the Pentagon for his new duty assignment as director of the assessment division for the office of Chief of Naval Operations.

“Our submarines are mission-ready, our crews are trained and ready. I couldn’t be prouder of men and women assigned here,” Crites said.

Holland becomes the 17th commander of Submarine Group 10, which is responsible for Submarine Squadrons 16 and 20, based at Kings Bay.

“I could see the great dedication and professionalism as soon as I arrived that has earned this waterfront one of the top reputations,” he said. “I’m incredibly excited to take over this position and start working with the Kings Bay team.”