USS MAKIN ISLAND, Gulf of Aden – During a recent change of command ceremony, the time honored title of Commodore was passed from one senior leader to another for Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five (PHIBRON 5), Dec 14.
PHIBRON 5 is deployed as part of the three ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), amphibious landing dock ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), and embedded Marines from the 11th Maritime Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and is currently assigned to U.S. 5th Fleet/Commander, Task Force 51.
The formal program was held in the fo’c’sle of Makin Island, where Capt. Vic Cooper transferred the title and leadership of the storied, 60-year-old squadron, to Capt. Stephen McKone, who was promoted from deputy commander.
The ceremony’s guest speaker was Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, Commander, Task Force 51, who praised Cooper for his poise and actions in a speech to the attendees.
“The PHIBRON 5 and 11th MEU team have done extraordinary work in this theater,” said Mundy. “It has been very important in demonstrating the unique capability of this blue/green team to be able to respond to a full range of possible operations – It’s made it possible for America to remain a force for stability in this region.”
Mundy continued to praise Cooper for the PHIBRON’s humanitarian and operational exercises throughout their deployment, including a mission near the Hawaiian Islands where, just two weeks into their deployment, PHIBRON 5 ships responded to a potential disaster situation and relocated a group of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists ahead of the tropical storms Julio and Iselle.
“The most important part of what makes America different is the quality of leadership we produce – Generation after generation – and Captain Cooper is one of those leaders.”
Following Mundy’s remarks, Cooper was awarded the Legion of Merit for his superior performance as commander, PHIBRON 5. Cooper addressed the staff and thanked them for their support and work ethic.
"It has been a great honor to serve our five Squadron ships during my time as Commodore of PHIBRON 5," said Cooper in his remarks. "The service members of the PHIBRON Family have excelled at my every request and their pride in their work brings me great professional and personal joy. Capt. McKone has been an outstanding deputy and will continue that superb performance as Commodore. I am confident that he will continue to take great care of my PHIBRON Family and that he will take this command to even higher heights."
Following Cooper’s remarks, orders were read and command was transferred. After returning salute and assuming command, McKone addressed the crowd and was quick to thank Cooper and recognize him for his efforts.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Capt. Cooper. He has guided up to five ships, taken our three ships now through work-ups and into deployment, led a rescue effort of researchers and provided the command with outstanding leadership,” said McKone. “As I assume command, I do so knowing how high Capt. Cooper set the bar and how hard I will need to work to maintain that level of excellence.”
While the Navy no longer maintains a rank of Commodore, the term still serves as a title for senior captains in command of amphibious squadrons, destroyer or cruiser squadrons, coastal warfare groups, submarine squadrons and aircraft wings. As Commander, PHIBRON 5, McKone now bears that title as he leads the squadron into the future.
PHIBRON 5 was established in 1954, purposed to assist with tactical planning strategies and operations. As part of the Makin Island ARG, PHIBRON 5 arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility Sept. 2014 to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.