SANTA RITA, Guam (Sept. 3, 2021) – Cmdr. Sean Welch relieved Cmdr. Steven Lawrence as commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) in a ceremony onboard Naval Base Guam, Sept. 3.
Rear Adm. Butch Dollaga, commander, Submarine Squadron Group 7, was the guest speaker for the ceremony. He praised Lawrence’s leadership and his crew on an outstanding job during his tenure.
“Make no mistake,” said Dollaga. “This is a seasoned group of submariners, and their success was shaped under the steadfast leadership of Cmdr. Lawrence. I would argue it was the very tenacity of the boat and the entire crew that enabled them to succeed during his time in command.”
Dollaga went on to say the crew of Oklahoma City “answered the bell, steamed all ahead flank, and sailed into harm’s way…ready, confident, and undeterred.”
Following his speech, Dollaga presented Lawrence, a native of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, with a Meritorious Service Medal for his tenure as commanding officer.
As he took the stage for the last time as the commanding officer of Oklahoma City, Lawrence addressed the crew and highlighted their success.
"The success of the Oklahoma City has been on the back of an extraordinary group of E-5 Sailors," said Lawrence. "This group of first-tour Sailors showed up to Oklahoma City as their first boat and by the end of their tours they ran the boat from the deckplates. On this deployment, it was great to see the next generation of Sailors step-up and continue the Oklahoma City legacy."
Lawrence went on to thank his family for their continued support during his tour aboard Oklahoma City.
“I want to thank my family, who made similar sacrifices as all Oklahoma City families have made over the last few years,” said Lawrence. “To my Queen, Kristen, the smartest decision I have ever made was asking you to go on a date with me to the Jersey Shore 25 years ago. Ever since then you have been my rock. Your support enabled me to be a better commanding officer.”
Lawrence is scheduled to report to Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, as a senior member of the combat readiness exam team.
Welch, a native of Colonie, New York, left a message for his crew as he assumed command of Oklahoma City.
“I am excited, and honored, to make this voyage on Oklahoma City with you,” said Welch. “I have witnessed your expertise and professionalism over the last month, and am convinced we will succeed in safely and efficiently conducting operations. Thank you for welcoming me aboard with open arms as your newest crewmember. I can’t wait to complete this journey with you.”
Welch, a former executive officer of Oklahoma City, graduated from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. He commissioned in 2002 through Officer Candidate School.
Oklahoma City is one of multiple Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron 15 (CSS-15), which is located at Polaris Point, Naval Base Guam.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Squadron 15, visit our official CSS-15 website at http://www.csp.navy.mil/css15 and our official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SubmarineSquadron15/.