YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Rear Adm. Leonard “Butch” Dollaga relieved Rear Adm. James “Jimmy” Pitts as Commander, Submarine Group 7 (CSG7), Commander, Task Force 74 (CTF74) and Commander, Task Force 54 (CTF54) during a change of command ceremony held in front of a virtual audience Friday.
Vice Adm. William Merz, Commander, Seventh Fleet, presided over the ceremony, taking the opportunity to praise Pitts on a successful tour marked by cross-community relationship and alliance building in support of regional and international security objectives.
“Today we celebrate the tremendous efforts of two of our most committed leaders,” said Merz. “Task Force Commanders in the U.S. Navy are the fighting Admirals, and Jimmy, what you did to develop our warfighting plans I think has given us great confidence in our ability to meet the threat wherever it may be. You understand the immense importance of our partners and our submarine force. Jimmy, as always, you left indelible work.”
JMSDF Vice Adm. Yoshitaka Ozama, Commander, Fleet Submarine Force, who had remained close friends with Pitts through his tour in Japan said their rapport paved the way for an increase in engagements between Japanese and U.S. submarine crews.
“I would like to express my respect for your great achievement in Yokosuka. Western Pacific region, the area we are responsible for is arguably the busiest in the world. However, even in such a situation, it was most reassuring to us that you and your team were in Yokosuka,” said Ozama. “Rear Admiral Dollaga, Butch-san, welcome to Japan, and welcome to Yokosuka! I am very pleased to meet you again and be able to work together. Let’s create a new era together.”
Dollaga, a native of Vallejo, California, reported to CSG7 from Undersea Warfighting Development Center based in Groton, Connecticut.
“Thank you for the opportunity to join the Seventh Fleet team, where we are laser-focused on warfighting, and for the opportunity to live and work in this great country alongside out Japanese hosts and very good friends. It simply does not get any better,” said Dollaga. “I am committed to building on the tremendous work and the momentum Jimmy has established over the past two plus years.”
Pitts, a native of Milton, Florida, heads to Washington, D.C. to be Director of Warfare Integration, N9I, on the Chief of Naval Operations staff. He thanked Merz, his fellow Task Force commanders and his counterparts in regional navies and fleets for making his tour both impactful and memorable. He also talked about the tenacity of his staff as they worked every day to make CSG7’s combined air, surface and undersea team a decisive force at sea.
“To the staff of Submarine Group 7, you operate in the epicenter of the Indo-Pacific, the most relevant region in the world. You maintain coverage of the undersea domain every day of the year across two oceans and two forward deployed fleets. You sit at the forefront of [Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare] operations, and your constant vigilance ensures our submarines and other assigned forces are effective and ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.
“Today you continue to execute your duties undaunted by COVID-19 related challenges, remaining alert and ready to fight tonight. I will head to my next assignment knowing that our forward deployed undersea force is in great hands.”
COMSUBGRU 7 directs submarine activities throughout the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea; two forward-deployed submarine tenders and four attack submarines homeported in Guam; five surveillance towed array sensor system vessels and three oceanographic survey vessels when tasked for theater anti-submarine warfare operations.