SASEBO, Japan – Capt. David Fluker relieved Capt. Troy Hart as commanding officer of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during a change of command ceremony Jan. 20.
Fluker takes command after serving as the ship’s executive officer since September 2009. During the ceremony, he said it is the individual Sailors who are responsible for the ship’s past and future success.
"I am truly honored and humbled to be your commanding officer,” said Fluker. “The Essex Sailors that surround you today are what make the ship capable and able to continue to take notice in support of our partners and allies throughout the region, whether we are participating in an exercise or responding to crises.”
Fluker, a native of Boston, N.Y., graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1987 and was designated a naval aviator in 1988. As an aviator, he has accumulated nearly 3,000 flight hours and more than 800 small-deck landings. In 2002, Fluker graduated from the Naval War College with a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies.
His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal, as well as various unit and campaign awards.
Fluker’s most recent assignment was Director, Joint Advanced Warfighting Program – Analytical Project Office, Institute for Defense Analysis in Alexandria, Va.
Hart assumed command of Essex Aug. 13, 2009. During his tenure, he led the crew through several multinational exercises with partner nations throughout the Western Pacific region.
"I have never been more proud of a crew than I am of you,” said Hart during the ceremony. “There’s no harder working, more caring or more dedicated crew in the fleet. Essex has a proud and well-deserved reputation for operational excellence, materiel and combat readiness and superb ambassadorial behavior ashore because of you, the heart and soul of Essex.”
Hart, who was awarded the Legion of Merit during the ceremony, will serve as the executive officer at Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Atlantic as his next assignment.