Waukegan native promoted to commander of attack submarine

A Waukegan native and third-generation sailor was promoted to commander of an attack submarine Thursday in a ceremony in Connecticut.

Chester T. Parks, 40, was honored while aboard the USS Annapolis at the Naval Submarine Base New London, the United States’ primary submarine base.

“I look forward with honor and privilege to assuming the duties of commanding officer of USS Annapolis,” Park said. “I’ve been around the Navy my entire life ... and it’s been a very positive experience.”

Parks, a Waukegan West High School alumnus, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1994, completed submarine training at various schools across the country and later received a master’s degree from Webster University. He has served in a variety of leadership positions in the Navy and was navigator during two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s.

Despite the history of naval service in his family, Parks said he hadn’t always known he wanted to be a commander.

“I knew I wanted to be a submariner when I went to the Naval Academy, but I hadn’t chosen how long that path would take,” Parks said. “But once I got the job ... as an ensign, that was kind of the goal: to become a commanding officer of a submarine.”

Parks relieves Cmdr. John Gearhart, who originally took command of USS Annapolis in November 2009 and completed two deployments. The submarine was recognized for multiple awards in the past few years under Gearhart’s leadership.

“Cmdr. Parks is a great fit for the ship,” he said. “He’s demonstrated superior leadership throughout his career, and he’s certainly the right man to take Annapolis through its future challenges.”

Gary Parks, Parks’ father, said the honor has made both him and Parks’ mother, Paula, very proud, though they aren’t surprised by his success.

“We knew he was going to be promoted,” Parks said. “It takes a certain type of person to come inside the Navy.”

Parks’ parents still live in Waukegan. Chester Parks said that despite all the moving he’s done since growing up, the city is still special to him.

“I still feel that’s my home that I can always come back to,” he said. “I have memories going back to childhood.”

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