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News | Dec. 28, 2023

Submarine Force Conducts Change of Command

By Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, center, looks on as Vice Adm. Robert Gaucher, left, relieves Vice Adm. William Houston, right, during the Commander, Submarine Forces change of command ceremony onboard Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 28.
SLIDESHOW | 5 images | Submarine Force Conducts Change of Command Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, center, looks on as Vice Adm. Robert Gaucher, left, relieves Vice Adm. William Houston, right, during the Commander, Submarine Forces change of command ceremony onboard Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 28. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ace Foster)
Vice Adm. Robert Gaucher relieved Vice Adm. William Houston as Commander, Submarine Forces/Submarine Force Atlantic during a change of command ceremony held onboard Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 28, 2023.

Houston assumed command in 2021. During his tour, the Submarine Force participated in Ice Exercise 2022, now elevated to an operation, oversaw the initial stages of AUKUS, which is a trilateral Australia-UK-U.S. partnership on nuclear-powered submarines, and implemented the Chief of Naval Operations’ ‘Get Real, Get Better’ initiative, resulting in an improvement in efficiency, lethality, safe operations, and quality of life for Submarine Force Sailors.

“When I arrived, we focused on three Submarine Pillars; Warfighting – People – Safety,” said Houston. “Our force is the most lethal and capable undersea force in the world… Today we face new perils. Every day we hold the line far away from the shores of the United States and if necessary, carry the fight to our enemy. We cannot and will not fail.”

“People are our most important asset. It is people who design, repair, and operate our submarines,” continued Houston. “We need to continue to foster a warfighting culture of excellence enabling every one of us to reach our potential… Safety is foundational to our culture and our operations. It is foundational to both warfighting and people. Our proud heritage and profession of arms demands the highest of personal and professional standards. These standards allow us to operate in an unforgiving environment.”

Houston will continue his naval service as Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP). The NNPP provides militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants and ensures their safe, reliable and long-lived operation. This mission requires the combination of fully trained U.S. Navy men and women with ships that excel in endurance, stealth, speed, and independence from supply chains.

Admiral Daryl Caudle, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was the guest speaker during the ceremony. Caudle previously served as Commander, Submarine Forces until he turned over command to Houston in 2021. He expressed his congratulations on a successful tour and highlighted some of Houston’s remarkable achievements.

“Working with U.S. Strategic Command, he masterminded a unique set of SSBN operations, coordinating with U.S. allies and partners to showcase the ability to maneuver unimpeded and undetected around the globe, then pop up at places of our choosing placing our competition and adversaries on notice that today, or any day, is the absolute wrong day to challenge the United States or her Allies,” said Caudle. “Bill puts teeth into what our Defense Strategy calls Integrated Deterrence. He leveraged ‘Get Real Get Better’ principles and tools to enhance warfighting readiness and lethality while championing a people-centric mode throughout the Submarine Force, prioritizing quality of life for both Sailors and their families.”

Caudle went on to wish Gaucher the best of luck as he assumes command of the Submarine Force.

“I am confident you are the right leader at the right time to continue making substantive change to expand the overmatch our Submarine Force maintains over our adversaries,” said Caudle. “I know you will lead your team to meet and exceed the highest standards in order to brave the deepest depths. I will give you the same advice I give every commander I have been fortunate enough to lead, you’re in charge, so take charge. Lead boldly with grit, tenacity and innovation. I look forward to your leadership.”

Gaucher has an extensive history with the submarine community taking his first tour as a division officer aboard USS Flying Fish (SSN 673), eventually working his way up to commanding officer of USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705). His leadership resulted in completing two Western Pacific mission cycles, and a homeport change to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii while earning two Meritorious Unit Commendations and the Submarine Squadron 15 Battle Efficiency ‘E’. He served as the Chief of Staff at Submarine Force Atlantic, and commander of Submarine Group 9.

Other staff and flag tours include being responsible for the Seawolf-class submarines while serving in major command of Development Squadron Five; director of Maritime Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and director of Strategic Integration on the Navy staff.

 “I would not be here today without the support of many, many people,” said Gaucher. “That group includes my family, our many friends, my Naval Academy ’91 classmates, and the many Navy and Joint Force shipmates that my wife Renea and I have met along the way. I would like to say thanks to the countless Sailors who have taught and supported me throughout my career, especially those on my submarines USS Flying Fish, USS Oklahoma City, USS Maryland, and my command tour on USS City of Corpus Christi. Despite all the technology we possess, our Sailors give us our biggest advantage.”

Gaucher continued to speak to his new staff on his priorities for the Submarine Force and where his efforts will be focused.   

“I recognize there are plenty of challenges ahead in operating our strategic forces, generating combat ready forces for our geographic combatant and fleet commanders, ensuring we are ready to receive the Columbia-class, continuing our AUKUS pillar actions, working with our many partner nations, increasing our use of unmanned and hybrid systems, and the list goes on and on,” said Gaucher. “I am excited to take on those challenges and I know that the Submarine Force team is up to the task. I am truly honored to lead our nation’s apex predators.”

U.S. Submarine Forces execute the Department of the Navy’s mission in and from the undersea domain. In addition to lending added capacity to naval forces, Submarine Forces, in particular, are expected to leverage those special advantages that come with undersea concealment to permit operational, deterrent and combat effects that the Navy and the Nation could not otherwise achieve.

U.S. Submarine Forces and supporting organizations constitute the primary undersea arm of the Navy. Submarines and their crews remain the tip of the undersea spear.