The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) held a change of command ceremony in the ship’s hangar bay, April 20.
Capt. Larry G. McCullen relieved Capt. Jeffrey A. Ward during the ceremony.
Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, who presided over the ceremony, issued high praise for Ward’s accomplishments as commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard.
“Beyond the daily operations, [Ward] emphasized professionalism off the ship as much as on the ship,” said Dalton. “He used every tool available to empower his crew to take care of each other, to take ownership of their professionalism and live up to our core values. He allowed deckplate Sailors to take charge, and great initiatives resulted.”
Since assuming command of Bonhomme Richard in April 2015, Ward led the crew through four patrols in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, and completed several multinational training exercises, including exercises Talisman Sabre 2015, Ssang Yong 16 and Valiant Shield 2016. Under Ward's command, Bonhomme Richard was a recipient of the Navy's Battle Efficiency Award for 2016.
Ward praised the crew for their unmatched dedication to duty during his tenure.
"I have watched this crew work side-by-side with our main battery, the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), to train and prepare to fight,” said Ward. “When you look at this crew, you see a crew that is constantly moving, constantly working to ensure the ship, and they themselves are always ready mentally and physically. There is no finer warship and no finer crew."
During the ceremony, Ward, who will continue his naval service at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., was presented with the Legion of Merit for his performance as commanding officer from April 2015 to April 2017.
McCullen officially assumed the title of commanding officer after orders were read and salutes rendered.
McCullen served as Bonhomme Richard's executive officer from April 2015 to April 2017.
"Capt. Ward, I thank you for preparing this command for the journey that we are about to embark on," said McCullen. "We will continue to improve on your legacy. To the crew, you are not only BHR, but the sharpest command I’ve ever laid eyes on. I am humbled and proud to be your commanding officer.
Bonhomme Richard, forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, is serving forward to provide a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster.
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