OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (U.S. Navy) – The Navy command in charge of ship construction, repair and modernization efforts at private shipyards in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama changed hands on Aug. 12.
Capt. Nathan A. Schneider relieved Capt. Brian D. Lawrence as Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair (SUPSHIP) Gulf Coast (SSGC) in a ceremony at the Ocean Springs Civic Center.
Schneider first came to the command a year ago to serve as the executive officer at SSGC.
“SUPSHIP Gulf Coast, thank you for welcoming me a year ago,” he said. “It’s truly a privilege for me to now have the opportunity to lead you, and I am honored to be part of the awesome SUPSHIP Gulf Coast family. I am going to give it my all to be the leader you need me to be.”
Schneider attended the United States Naval Academy where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and was commissioned as an ensign in 1996. He began his naval career as a surface warfare officer with is first tour aboard the USS Callaghan (DDG 994). After two additional ship tours, he laterally transferred to the Engineering Duty Officer career path, during which he attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
After graduation, he served at both SUPSHIP Puget Sound and SUPSHIP Bath. He has also worked within the Zumwalt-class destroyer and littoral combat ship programs. Before reporting to SSGC as the executive officer, he served as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for ship programs within the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
Mr. Mathew Sermon, Executive Director of the Amphibious, Auxiliary and Sealift Office, presided over the ceremony.
“For decades, you have built a tradition of excellence, and the past few years have been no exception,” said Sermon to Lawrence. “All told, SSGC oversees the performance of contracts valued at more than $56 billion. You have executed this tremendous responsibility with energy, wisdom, resilience, and focus, and I am grateful for your work and your commitment.”
Sermon also spoke of how the Navy must expand to meet the needs of the nation, which SSGC, now under the command of Schneider, must focus on.
“Nate, I know you will continue to provide the top-notch results we have come to expect from SSGC,” Sermon said. “As you all know, we are in a Great Power Competition, and we cannot rest on our past successes. We must build the Navy the Nation Needs, quickly, efficiently, and with an eye toward innovation.”
A retirement ceremony for Lawrence immediately followed the change of command, during which he was recognized for 29 years of honorable service.
“I have spent more than nine years at SSGC,” Lawrence said. “In that time, I have watched leaders grow, and I have watched every department go to the next level. It has been an honor to serve as your CO. Thank you SUPSHIP for letting me be part of such a great organization.”
During Lawrence’s time as commanding officer, he oversaw ten Major Acquisition Category programs with a total contract value of over $56 billion, along with ship maintenance and modernization, planning yard, and post-delivery oversight. Lawrence successfully led the command through 33 sea trials and 12 ship deliveries.
Lawrence left the audience with a charge to make the world a better place.
“Each day when you wake up, you have a choice to make,” he said. “You can walk through the world and lift people up, or you can walk through the world and knock people down. I choose to be the one who lifts people up, and I ask you to do the same.”
The guest speaker for the retirement ceremony, Mr. Mike Holiday, SSGC contracts specialist, spoke of Lawrence and the lessons he learned under his leadership. During his speech, he also spoke of the importance of self-leadership, which is a habit he adopted after realizing he spent much of his early military career blaming others for his own dissatisfaction and failures.
“I began to be more mature,” Holiday explained. “It’s not about focusing on others or spending time assigning blame. Instead, it’s about taking ownership of your actions. You’ll become happier because you’ll realize that you’re responsible for your own happiness.”
SSGC, a field command of the Naval Sea Systems Command, is the largest of four geographically dispersed new construction activities. SSGC administers and manages shipbuilding contracts with privately owned shipyards located along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama along with additional post delivery locations in California and Washington.
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