SAN DIEGO – Sailors stood in formation on the flight deck of USS Freedom (LCS 1) while pierside at Naval Base San Diego as LCS Crew 102, Freedom’s “gold crew,” held a change of command ceremony, Jan. 17.
With the traditional exchange of salutes, Cmdr. Timothy Wilke turned over command of the Navy’s first-in-class littoral combat ship to Cmdr. Rich Jarrett, who previously served as executive officer.
“To acknowledge the contributions that Tim [Wilke] has brought as the ship’s captain without recognizing the accomplishments of the crew standing behind would really miss the point for in their efforts really lie his accomplishments,” said Capt. Randy Garner, commander of Littoral Combat Squadron One, who served as the guest speaker for the ceremony. “We thank you for your leadership and your efforts here to make your crew and this ship better and to deploy with such success.”
The ceremony marked the end of a very successful three-year assignment aboard Freedom for Wilke who had also served as the ship’s executive officer prior to assuming command.
Wilke led Freedom’s gold crew during a five-month period to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of the ship’s maiden deployment. After making initial port visits to Hawaii and Guam, Freedom participated in the International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) in Singapore and in select phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises in Southeast Asia.
"Being your commanding officer truly has been the honor of a lifetime," said Wilke, a native of Schaumburg, Ill. "I will never forget the times we spent together and the challenges we faced and overcame. I will miss you all.”
Wilke thanked his wife and family for their support of his naval career and taking care of all the household duties while he was deployed. He also sincerely thanked the members of Crew 102 for their hard work during his time on board Freedom.”
“When I reflect back on what you as a team have accomplished I can sum it up in only two words - historic and awesome," said Wilke. “What you were asked to do and in the timeframe given to accomplish it made your mission a daunting one for any Navy crew and a nearly impossible for an optimally manned LCS crew, but you did it and did it well.”
Wilke's next tour will be as commanding officer of Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific in Hawaii.
Jarrett, who hails from Charleston, W. Va., served as the ship’s executive officer for 18 months prior to assuming command. He is also a “plankowner” of Freedom and served as the ship’s operations officer at commissioning in 2008, and operated the ship during the first transit from Marinette, Wis., to Norfolk, Va.
"It is an incredible privilege to lead the Sailors of Freedom’s Gold Crew," said Jarrett. "This crew can feel enormously proud and satisfied with the accomplishments that have been achieved in Freedom during the course of the past year and a half, especially our historic deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."
Jarrett said that he is looking forward the Gold Crew’s continued leadership in first-in-class milestones for Freedom-variant ships.
“Our gold crew will continue to break new ground for LCS ships in the months and years ahead,” said Jarrett. “We’re looking forward to being the first crew to operate with a composite MH-60R helicopter and vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle detachment in the spring of 2014.”
Jarrett said that the gold crew will be the first LCS crew to redeploy aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) in 2015.
Freedom is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance in San Diego following completion of a 10-month deployment.