Story Number: NNS140207-17Release Date: 2/7/2014 1:41:00 PM
By Lt. Timothy Hawkins, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
KITTERY, Maine (NNS) -- Command of USS Topeka (SSN 754) officially changed hands, Feb. 7, during a time-honored ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where the Los Angeles-class attack submarine is undergoing a scheduled overhaul.
Cmdr. David Lammers relieved Cmdr. James Belz during a 10 a.m. change-of-command ceremony in the shipyard's auditorium. Both former and current Topeka crew members, shipyard personnel, and Navy leaders attended.
Belz's three-year command tour aboard Topeka began in February 2011. He led the submarine on highly successful deployments to the Western Pacific and U.S. Southern Command within the first year of his tour.
He also led Topeka on a transcontinental change of homeport from San Diego to Maine in 2012 to commence the 22-month engineered overhaul.
A native of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Belz began his naval career as an enlisted Sailor and member of Topeka's pre-commissioning crew in 1987. But he detached from Topeka the following year after earning selection to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
He earned his naval officer commission upon graduating from the State University of New York Maritime College with a bachelor's in electrical engineering.
"It was huge for me to come back to the same ship that I started my career on," Belz said. "I would call this one of the highlights of my life. We had a great crew then and we have a great crew now."
Lammers, a native of Cincinnati, also began his career as an enlistee more than 20 years ago. He earned his naval officer commission through the Nuclear Enlisted Commissioning Program and received a bachelor's from Auburn University, also in electrical engineering.
Before reporting to Topeka, Lammers spent the past two years as Current Undersea Operations Officer for Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. He is Topeka's 13th commanding officer.
"Topeka is an extremely capable and powerful platform manned by a crew of highly trained professionals," he said. "I am honored and humbled to be her commanding officer and I'm really looking forward to taking Topeka to sea."
Topeka currently has 17 officers and 153 enlisted personnel assigned.
The 24-year-old vessel arrived at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in December 2012 and has undergone more than half of its scheduled maintenance work and systems upgrades.
Belz will remain stationed at the naval shipyard in Kittery to serve as the representative for Commander, Submarine Group 2.
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.