JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM - Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific held a change of command ceremony July 10 at the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
Rear Adm. Richard L. Williams Jr. relieved Rear Adm. Fernandez "Frank" Ponds as Region and MIDPAC commander.
USS Arizona Memorial stood as a backdrop to the ceremony and a constant reminder of World War II history. The ceremony was held in the shadow of the former USS Missouri (BB 63), site of the signing of surrender that ended the war in the Pacific.
The event began with the arrival of the official party and parading of colors, followed by the national anthem sung by Seaman Steven Martinez assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112).
Students at Hickam Elementary School were on hand to sing Hawaii Pono'i. Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad provided an oli (Hawaiian poem and chant), and Kahu Kelekona Bishaw of Kamehameha Schools offered a Hawaiian blessing and presented lei to the official party.
Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet served as keynote speaker, and Vice Adm. William D. French, commander, Navy Installations Command, presided at the ceremony.
Every speaker acknowledged the significance of Pearl Harbor's history and each mentioned Hawaii's place in the ongoing rebalancing to Indo/Asia/Pacific.
Haney, French, Ponds and Williams each expressed appreciation for the attendance of recently retired U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, senior distinguished visitor. Dozens of other dignitaries and flag and general officers were also in attendance.
"Today we salute the efforts of Frank and Carol Ponds and welcome Rick and Susie Williams to the Pacific Fleet and to the Hawaii Ohana," said Haney in his opening remarks. "I know this transition is bittersweet for the Ponds [family], who enjoyed the wonderful aloha and the spirit of Hawaii Ohana."
"The presence of so many guests, including distinguished leaders, friends and families from the community, is a clear reflection of the remarkable relationship between our Navy and the Hawaii community as well as the great work by Frank and Carol," said Haney.
"Frank has passionately led the charge to balance the budget reduction while supporting the operational readiness of Middle Pacific warships and quality of life initiatives for our most valued assets, our people - our Sailors, our civilians and of course the families that support them."
In his opening remarks, French highlighted Ponds' many accomplishments and added, "You will be missed here in Hawaii, but I'm confident you will have an equally impactful tour in San Diego. Our nation is stronger because of leaders like Frank Ponds. I'll miss your bold leadership and sage advice and your insightful perspective on the operational CNIC enterprise, an enterprise you made better every day."
French then presented Ponds with the Legion of Merit award.
Ponds began his address by saying, "I'm going to give you a couple of words to think about as I give my remarks; the first one is 'teamwork' and the second one is 'thank-you,' because that is how it all happens. Teamwork is essential for success and everything that you've heard today is all about teamwork."
Ponds said, "This day provides me with the perfect opportunity to recognize the many faces that Carol and I have encountered over the past 20 months. It's an opportunity to thank those I worked for and worked with for their tremendous hard work, support and their sacrifice."
Ponds ended his remarks addressing Williams. "You will soon have the privilege to lead the pride of our Navy. I ask that you give them your all, because I can assure you they will give you all that they have."
Following the reading of orders, Williams officially became commander of Navy Region Hawaii, with oversight of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Pacific Missile Range Facility, and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, leading the 11 surface ships homeported in Hawaii.
In his opening remarks, Williams congratulated Ponds "for his superb leadership, exceptional expertise in advancing this region and leading all the dynamic challenges facing our Navy and our military today, you did it with class and you're a hard act to follow."
Williams thanked his family in attendance and pledged his support to military families.
"Without the foundation of a strong household unit to help shoulder the burden of our Navy life, Sailors like us could not do our jobs," he said.
Williams is a native of Pittsford, N.Y. He comes to Hawaii after leading the assessments branch for the staff of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
Ponds, a native of Autaugaville, Ala., served as commander since November 2011. He leaves Hawaii to become commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 in San Diego.