U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 held a change of command ceremony aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) supercarrier on August 29, the service said in a statement.
During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer took over the role as the new commander of CSG 3 from Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock.
Sailors, distinguished visitors, and guests gathered in John C. Stennis’ hangar bay to bid farewell to Rear Adm. Hitchcock and welcome Rear Adm. Wettlaufer. Commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, was the ceremony’s guest speaker and presiding officer and presented Hitchcock with the Legion of Merit.
“No team has been better prepared to succeed than the John C. Stennis Strike Group under Hitch’s leadership,” said Tyson. “We have literally thrown everything we can think of at this team and they continuously excel.”
During Hitchcock’s time in command, CSG 3 completed a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and participated in Exercise Foal Eagle 2016 with the Republic of Korea, Exercise Malabar 2016 with the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and Rim of the Pacific 2016, the world’s largest international exercise.
Wettlaufer previously served as executive officer of John C. Stennis and commanded the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, USS Denver (LAD 9), and John C. Stennis.
About John C. Stennis Strike Group:
The John C. Stennis Strike Group consists of USS John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron 21 embarked, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).
CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71, Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133, and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 14, 41, 97 and 151.
CSG3 is comprised of the units making up JCSSG and also includes independent deployers: guided-missile destroyers USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Gridley (DDG 101).
USS John C. Stennis is in port training for future operations after completing its planned incremental availability (PIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility five days ahead of schedule. During PIA, the ship and shipyard team accomplished the largest work package ever for an aircraft carrier in a six-month availability.