Hawaii-Based Navy Submarine Commander Relieved Over Morale Problems

Cmdr. Joseph Lautenslager Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Cmdr. Joseph Lautenslager is piped ashore during the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Charlotte (SSN 766) change of command ceremony in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Mar 15, 2019. (Bryan Carlson/U.S. Navy)

The commanding officer of a Navy fast-attack submarine based in Hawaii was removed from his position Tuesday over a loss of confidence in his ability to lead.

Cmdr. Joseph Lautenslager, commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine Charlotte, was relieved by Capt. Michael Majewski, head of Submarine Squadron 7, Navy officials announced Wednesday. A command investigation revealed leadership and command climate problems, which caused Majewski to lose confidence in Lautenslager's ability to lead, according to the news release on the relief.

"Morale of the crew played a large factor in the decision to remove him from command," said Cmdr. Cindy Fields, a spokeswoman for Submarine Force Pacific.

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Last month, Torpedoman's Mate 3rd Class Petty Officer Manuel H. Julian Jr., a 23-year-old assigned to the submarine Charlotte, died of an apparent suicide while on duty at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The submarine was moored at the shipyard while undergoing maintenance.

Lautenslager, who assumed command of the submarine in 2019, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has been temporarily reassigned to the staff of the commander of Submarine Force Pacific, Fields said.

"Commanding officers are held to a very high standard," a Navy news release about the relief states. "Their position requires the utmost responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable in cases where they fall short of those standards."

Cmdr. Christopher Hedrick, Submarine Squadron 7's deputy commander, has assumed command of the Charlotte until a permanent replacement is named. Hedrick previously commanded the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine Santa Fe.

Lautenslager earned his commission in 1999 and was promoted to the rank of commander in 2015. Before reporting to the Charlotte, the submarine warfare officer attended the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center in Newport, Rhode Island. He was previously assigned to Submarine Squadron 7 in Pearl Harbor.

His personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

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-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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