By ENS John H. Horne, Public Affairs Officer
SAN DIEGO - USS USS SPRUANCE (DDG 111) held a change of command ceremony on USS MIDWAY on May 11, 2012. Commander M. T. Westbrook turned over command of the guided missile destroyer to Commander George A. Kessler, Jr.
The ceremony marked the end of a very successful 31 month command tour for Westbrook. He led SPRUANCE from the Pre-commissioning process at Bath Iron Works in Maine, through the ship’s commissioning and sail-around to homeport in San Diego. During this time, SPRUANCE operated in Second, Third and Fourth Fleet Areas of Responsibility. This transit include multiple port-calls along the East Coast; several days in Cartagena, Columbia; and through the Panama Canal. The ship arrived in San Diego for the first time on October 24, 2012, where it was greeted by eager families and the waterfront alike.
Since returning and while still under CDR Westbrook’s command SPRUANCE, has excelled through all scheduled qualifications and inspections. The ship spent the early part of the year preparing for Combat Systems Ship Qualification Testing and Final Contract Trials. During both events, SPRUANCE exceeded program expectations and established itself as one of the best ships in Arleigh Burke Class history.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve aboard SPRUANCE,” said Westbrook. “I’ve never worked with a better crew, and I’m extremely proud of their accomplishments. This has been my most rewarding tour. We couldn’t have earned the numerous accolades and awards this ship has received over this period without the superb officer, chiefs and sailors of the SPRUANCE crew. CDR Westbrook will be working as Assistant Director for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management and Budget (DASN FM&B).
CDR Kessler, the incoming Commanding Officer, is a 1995 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and earned his master’s degree in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School. He completed sea tours aboard USS SUPPLY (AOE 6) as Main Propulsion Officer and Replenishment at Sea Officer, USS CAPE ST GEORGE (CG 71) as Damage Control Assistant supporting Desert Shield and Desert Fox, and USS MUSTIN (DDG 89) as Weapons Officer and Combat Systems Officer including her maiden deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He served as Executive Officer aboard USS SPRUANCE (DDG 111) from January 2010 to April 2012.
“I am excited and humbled by the privilege to lead this crew as the Commanding Officer of SPRUANCE,” said Kessler. “They are the best and brightest this country has to offer and the most dedicated men and women that I have served with on a ship. We are ready to start the next stage of SPRUANCE life as a ship defending our country at home and abroad.”
After a short shipyard availability, SPRUANCE begins an intensive training cycle later this year and deploys to defend the Pacific just as her namesake, Admiral Spruance did in World War II.