YOKOSUKA, Japan (Nov. 30, 2020) – After learning that a cubic-inch box could generate fuel for 30 years, a beguiled young mechanical engineering student from Richmond, Virginia commissioned in the U.S. Navy as a Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate. His plan was to learn everything he could about nuclear power, and separate at the five-year mark to find work in the civilian sector. “The rest, as they say is history,” said Capt. Harry Ganteaume, who retired today after a 32-year career, flanked by his wife, Sumiko, and saluted by a constellation of Admirals, Captains and virtual well-wishers.
Ganteaume has spent the last 20 years of his career in the Indo-Pacific. His sea tours include division officer assignments on USS Ray (SSN 653) and USS Groton (SSN 694), a department head tour aboard USS Nebraska (SSBN 739), and executive officer aboard USS Los Angeles (SSN 688). He commanded the first-in-class USS Seawolf (SSN 21) supervising a homeport shift that made it the first submarine to be homeported in Bremerton, Washington, and also served as Commodore of Submarine Squadron 1 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His shore and staff assignments include staff officer at U.S. 7th Fleet, and Operations (N3) Officer and Chief of Staff at Commander, Submarine Group 7 (CSG7). This August, the staff he led for over four years voted unequivocally to dedicate Fluckey Hall’s main conference room in his honor, a monument to the impact one person could have on a command and its culture.
“Harry, when I got to know you well, it became clear your reputation was hard earned and exactly correct,” said Vice Adm. Bill Merz, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet referencing his own experiences with Ganteaume who was his Chief of Staff at CSG7 in 2015. “Four and a half years and nearly 67 deployments later. I’m yet to meet a more knowledgeable submariner across the board, combined with the nicest sense of humility and compassion. I endeavor to have the podium in your conference room named after me.”
Ganteaume cited leaders – both officer and enlisted – as the standard-bearers he sought to emulate when crafting his own leadership style. “Now retired Admiral Tom Wears was my department head while I was a division officer,” Ganteaume explained. “He was able to strike that balance, raising and maintaining high standards while making sure people were taken care of. My second [Chief of the Boat] Master Chief Jaret Hofer was another influential leader. He knew what was going on with every single Sailor.”
Ganteaume said he saw first-hand aboard USS Nebraska how effective that strategy could be. During his tour there, and despite several leadership changes, the command’s Sailor-first approach drove their success. “I saw that if the Sailors are taken care of, the ship’s going to do well no matter what,” he explained.
He demonstrated a dogged devotion to supporting forward-deployed submarines and their crews as Commodore of Submarine Squadron 1, and both his tours at Submarine Group 7. To Ganteaume, the almost 100 SSN and more than a dozen SSGN deployments he oversaw are not just a number. “Supporting and enabling the success of all those deployments, all the missions that those submarine crews did, all the port visits, all the exercises, making sure they were successful in their missions. That was the highlight.”
Ganteaume has been in the Indo-Pacific theater for the past 20 years. The extent of his regional knowledge and rapport he had built with leaders throughout Southeast Asia contributed to his effectiveness, and to the success of many of the bilateral initiatives implemented under his watch. “We’ve made incredible progress in the last 10 years,” Ganteaume said. “If one were to compare snapshots of our combined activities in the year 2000, when I first arrived in Japan, and today, one would be amazed by the growth of our mutual commitment.”
Ganteaume cites as an example the U.S., Japan and Australia Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare (TASW) Working Group that resulted in a JMSDF and Australian submarine liaison officer being fully integrated into Submarine Group 7’s TASW operations. “Australia has always been a very, very close partner and that has remained,” Ganteaume said. “Having an Australian officer here has been pretty helpful.”
Early in his career, Ganteaume separated from the Navy to pursue a life in the civilian sector. He rejoined six months later. “I missed that extended family you have in the submarine force,” he explained. “It’s the thing I’m still to miss the most when I leave.”
After 18 years of marriage to Sumiko, who Ganteaume describes as amazing, and six or seven moves, Ganteaume looks forward to settling in Japan for a few years so she could be close to her family. She has had to make several adjustments, both to American life and to the Navy culture, often by herself. “Through it all, your courage, grace and thoughtfulness were truly inspirational, and made me a better person and naval officer,” he told her in his closing remarks. “Looking ahead, there’s still some uncertainty in our next adventure, but I’m certain it will all work out as long as we are together.”