San Diego -- Cmdr. Gilbert Ayan relieved Cmdr. Michael J. Rak as commanding officer USS Milius (DDG 69), during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego, Calif., Nov. 20.
“Serving in command of Milius has been my honor and privilege and something I have worked toward all my professional life,” said Rak. “I leave knowing the ship is in excellent hands.”
Among the guests present at the ceremony were VO-67 squadron mates of the ship’s namesake, Capt. Paul L. Milius, as well as Milius’ nephew.
On Feb. 27, 1968, Milius, A Navy pilot, was conducting a reconnaissance mission over Laos when his OP-2E aircraft was struck by anti-air artillery fire. Although the aircraft was severely damaged, Milius opted to stay inside the aircraft and stabilize the flight, allowing his seven crew members to bail out. As a result of Milius’ courage, all seven were rescued. It is believed that Milius exited the aircraft before it crashed, but he was declared “Missing in Action” after rescuers failed to locate him. Milius’ status changed to “Presumed Killed in Action” in 1978. Capt. Paul L. Milius was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
“'Others Before Myself’ is not just the ship's motto, it is our way of life onboard Milius,” said Rak. “I am truly humbled to have commanded a ship bearing Paul Milius’ name. The selfless example he set, and the legacy of his service, is present throughout the ship.”
During the ceremony, Rak received the Meritorious Service Medal for his accomplishments while serving as Milius’ executive and commanding officer from October 2012 to November 2015. Under Rak’s command, Milius executed an accelerated, blended Training Phase. Rak then led a successful eight-month Ballistic Missile Defense Deployment to the 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Responsibility, and directed extensive Maritime Security Operations and the integration of Milius with three carrier strike groups conducting combat strike operations. He will report to Surface Warfare Officers School Command in Newport, R.I.
“Thank you to the crew for everything you have done for our ship. I set high standards but our Sailors have constantly exceeded them and accomplished everything I ever asked of them,” said Rak. “It has been a great professional honor to watch these Sailors develop into the leaders and destroyermen that they are today. I am proud to call them my shipmates.”
Ayan took command of Milius after serving a tour as the ship's executive officer under Rak.
“Cmdr. Rak served Milius with unwavering commitment and with the skill, judgment, and leadership necessary to inspire the crew of Milius to achieve great professional success,” said Ayan. “I look forward to continuing to serve with this exceptional crew and continuing to uphold the standard of excellence associated with Milius.”
Ayan, a native of Miami, Florida and a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, commissioned through Officer Candidate School and has served in a range of sea and shore assignments. His sea duties include damage control assistant onboard USS Thorn (DD 988), weapons officer onboard USS Firebolt (PC 10), chief engineer onboard USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), and material officer in Destroyer Squadron 24. Ashore, he served as an engineering training liaison officer at Afloat Training Group, Mayport Fla., and as a placement officer in Navy Personnel Command, Cruiser and Destroyers Atlantic Fleet, followed by a joint service tour as executive officer to the chief of staff, in US Special Operations Command.
Milius is undergoing combat systems upgrades, to include being fitted with the latest AEGIS combat system, which includes state-of-the-art air defense, ballistic missile defense, surface warfare and undersea warfare capabilities. After completing upgrades, Milius will join U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward deployed Naval forces operating out of Yokosuka, Japan.