BANGOR, Wash. - The Gold crew of the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) conducted a change of ceremony at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Aug. 28.
Capt. Gustavo Gutierrez, from Miami, relieved Capt. Benjamin Pearson III, from Gig Harbor, Washington, and assumed the duties and responsibilities of the Michigan Gold crew commanding officer during the ceremony at Deterrent Park.
Pearson assumed command of Michigan Gold crew Dec. 16, 2013, following an extended Maintenance and Modernization Period (MMP) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. During his tour, the crew completed multiple crew swaps in the Western Pacific, while the boat was forward-deployed to Guam.
“We have done a lot as a team over the past 21 months. We integrated female officers into the crew and we are on the way to being the first submarine to integrate female enlisted Sailors into the submarine force. We deployed for nine of 12 months, completed multiple inspections, conducted five exchange of commands, numerous long flights to and from Guam, steamed thousands of miles, and finally our ‘tip of the spear’ deployment in Guam, all while maintaining great crew morale and a great family atmosphere on Michigan,” said Pearson.
Highlights from the deployment include exercises involving special operations forces, a port visit in Singapore and coordination with foreign countries. Gold crew earned the Navy Expeditionary Medal, two Sea Service Medals and the Commander, Submarine Squadron 19 Battle Efficiency (Battle “E”) Award.
As his final act as commanding officer, Pearson pinned the submarine warfare insignia “dolphins” onto Michigan Gold’s supply officer, Lt. Jennifer Charlton, from Uniondale, New York.
“Of course everybody says they have the best crew on the waterfront, but based on our recent accomplishments, I feel that I have the best crew a captain could ask for. These Sailors breathe life into Michigan,” said Pearson. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their hard work and dedication. My major goal when taking command was to instill a sense of pride and determination into the crew, and allow them to do their job as best they could. They are the reason for all of our successes while I’ve been in command.”
Pearson’s next assignment is deputy commander, Submarine Squadron 19, located at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
Gutierrez comes to Michigan Gold from Chief of Naval Operations staff, where he served as the section head in the Joint Requirements and Acquisition Branch of the Assessment Division.
“I’m truly humbled and honored as I take command of USS Michigan,” said Gutierrez. “I expect the crew will continue to perform with honor, courage and commitment. I especially look forward to the ship and the crew’s return to sea at the pointy end of the spear, conducting missions of vital importance to national security.”
Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, Michigan has the ability to conduct large-volume short-notice strike missions and covertly deploy special operations forces.
Michigan and its sister ship, USS Ohio (SSGN 726), are both homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.