by John Stratton
It’s a Great—though a bit warm—Navy Day,” said Captain Mark Denno on May 31 at the Change of Command ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base. And, in his departing address as Commanding Officer, addressing Navy, government, and civic leaders, he honored “the fleet, the fighters, and the families” that make the base a powerful protector of the nation, and a vibrant member of the Connecticut community.
“It’s all about the submarines,” he said, referring to the 15 fast-attack vessels homeported here, and the interaction of some 70 “tenant” organizations that call the base their home. Capt. Denno served as base commander for almost four years, longer than any commander since 1915.
In his tenure, he said, he has stressed Navy involvement with the community, and vice versa. “It’s been said, Denno quipped, “that ‘good fences make good neighbors.’ I say ‘good neighbors make good neighbors’–and that good neighbors make all the difference.”
In citing many for that neighborliness, he put in a word of appreciation for Electric Boat and its people, who, he said, “put a lot of their heart and soul into what we take to sea.”
His successor, Captain Carl A. Lahti, is himself no stranger to Groton, with diverse command experience here and in Washington, D.C.
The change of command ceremony featured the Honorable Dannel P. Malloy, Governor of the State of Connecticut, as guest speaker. The outdoor ceremony was on the base’s new track and field facility.
Governor Malloy called the base “a very special place that is a premier training facility and deployment base for a stronger military and a safer nation.” The governor said that he “looked forward” to working with Capt. Lahti in support of the Navy, veterans, and the base.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal recalled the dark days a few years ago when the base was threatened with closure, and reassured the gathering that, “Undersea warfare is the future of this country, and among our principal means of warfare.” He would stand firm, he stressed, in “making sure that there is no future BRAC [base reduction] and no loss of submarines.”
Capt. Denno took command of the base June 29, 2009. Born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, he grew up in various locales as the child of a U.S. Army medical officer; his next assignment will be to the staff of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Capt. Lahti is a native of Buffalo, New York, and joins the base after having served on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. He was stationed here a number of times previously on assignments in the submarines USS Miami (SSN 755) and USS Dallas (SSN 700), and he served on the staffs of Submarine Squadron Four and Submarine Development Squadron Twelve, both tenants on the base.
Capt. Denno leaves a substantial legacy: Under his leadership the base undertook close to $200 million in major infrastructure projects and capital investment, including a new pier, a new port operations center, a new, indoor small-arms range, and a new synthetic track and field for training and recreation.
U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney noted that “The ‘Denno Era’ left an amazing legacy, connecting this amazing Navy resource with the greater community.”
With a smile, he commended Capt. Denno succinctly: “He really gets it.”