Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nuclear Submarine Gets New Commander Jacksonville Native at Helm

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nuclear Submarine Gets New Commander Jacksonville Native at Helm

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, Times-Union staff writer

KINGS BAY NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE -- Cmdr. Richard Kitchens, a Jacksonville native, faces the toughest challenge of his 19-year Navy career.

Kitchens, 41, assumed command of one of two USS Wyoming crews yesterday, with the responsibility of being captain of a Trident submarine that carries 24 nuclear weapons -- more firepower than most nations.

Kitchens, a 1979 graduate of Terry Parker Senior High School, described his new assignment as "a truly monumental day in my life."

"It feels wonderful," he said. "I asked to be assigned to Kings Bay because it is close to my family and it's where I grew up. I'm thrilled to be here."

Kitchens replaces Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Hughes, who captained the Wyoming crew, one of two that alternate on the boat's 70-day patrols, since January 2000.

Hughes told the audience during the ceremony that Kitchens would assume command on a boat with "no dents, no scrapes on the hull" and a crew that performed its duty at the highest level.

"I'm proud about what we accomplished," Hughes said.

Hughes said the job of a boat's captain is part cheerleader, father figure, disciplinarian and counselor.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," Hughes said. In Navy tradition, keynote speaker Franklin C. Miller focused on the outgoing commander's accomplishments as skipper of the Wyoming.

Miller, special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and arms control, talked of his many visits to Kings Bay in the 1980s, "where I had visited so many times I thought I could give a tour of the base."

Hughes accompanied Miller on many assignments while working together at the Pentagon and made a "major and significant contribution to submarine policy" while serving in Washington, Miller said.

Miller then talked about the role of Trident submarines during the Cold War, when the boats "utterly broke the back" of the former Soviet Union by forcing the nation into an arms war it couldn't win. …

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