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Commander of Hawaii-based fast-attack submarine fired over ‘command climate’ problems

The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Charlotte prepares to depart Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in 2010.

RONALD GUTRIDGE/U.S. NAVY

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 29, 2021

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The commander of the Pearl Harbor-based submarine USS Charlotte was relieved Tuesday in the wake of a command investigation sparked in part by a sailor’s suicide last month, the Navy said Wednesday.

Cmdr. Joseph Lautenslager was dismissed from the fast-attack sub by Capt. Michael Majewski, who heads Submarine Squadron 7, after losing confidence in his ability to command, the Navy said in a news release.

Majewski took the action after an investigation “revealed leadership and command climate problems,” the Navy said.

Lautenslager took command of the Charlotte in March 2019. He has been temporarily assigned to the staff of Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Navy said.

The submarine is undergoing maintenance at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

On March 17, a 23-year-old torpedoman’s mate third class died from a self-inflicted gunshot while on nighttime watch aboard the Charlotte, according to the Navy.

Majewski ordered the command investigation as the result of both the suicide and the command climate and leadership issues, Pacific Fleet Submarine Force spokeswoman Cmdr. Cindy Fields told Stars and Stripes in a statement.

“Morale of the crew played a large factor in the decision to remove him from command,” she said.

The deputy commander of Squadron 7, Cmdr. Christopher Hedrick, has assumed command of the Charlotte until a permanent replacement is named, the Navy said.

Lautenslager was commissioned in 1999, according to his official Navy biography. He served as executive officer aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Springfield from 2012-2013.

Before taking command of the Charlotte, he served as deputy commander for readiness for Squadron 7, according to the bio.

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Cmdr. Joseph Lautenslager is piped ashore during the USS Charlotte (SSN 766) change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on March 15, 2019. Lautenslager was relieved of command of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, after a command investigation.
BRYAN CARLSON/U.S. NAVY