SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) held a change of command ceremony in the ship's hangar bay Aug. 4.
Capt. Mark A. Melson, from Dubuque, Iowa, relieved Capt. Jon P. Rodgers, from Humboldt, Tennessee, during the ceremony.
The guest speaker was Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, who spoke highly of the Makin Island crew's performance under Rodgers' command.
"The crew of Makin Island completed an intense seven-month maintenance availability on time -- a rare feat these days," said Rowden. "Our ships need to be able to answer the bell when needed, to be where it matters, when it matters and USS Makin Island has been where it matters. This crew has certainly answered the bell on mission readiness."
Since assuming command of Makin Island December 2014, Rodgers led the crew through the timely completion of a major, seven-month, Chief of Naval Operations' maintenance availability. Under his command, the crew also certified 19 warfare areas during the basic phase training cycle, keeping the ship on track to attain deployment readiness just 19 months since returning from its last deployment.
Rodgers honored the crew and Melson for their unparalleled devotedness to duty during his tenure.
"Our achievements are significant -- much more than these words can express," Rodgers wrote in a parting letter to the crew. "You met all battlefront and homefront challenges head on, and you stared down our adversaries with lethal confidence. Remember these times, challenging as they often are, because you are part of something magnificent."
During the ceremony, Rodgers, who will continue his naval service at Naval Surface Forces Command in San Diego, was presented with the Legion of Merit for his performance as commanding officer from December 2014 to August 2016.
"Commanding Makin Island has been a great privilege; leading this fine group of men and women as we did our nation's bidding, at home and abroad, is a real checkmark in life," said Rodgers. "I will always reflect on the last 20 months as a significant achievement, but mostly, I will remember leading, sweating and bleeding with this amazing crew."
Melson officially assumed the title and responsibilities as Makin Island's commanding officer after orders were read and salutes rendered.
Melson served as Makin Island's executive officer (XO) from December 2014 to July 2016. A career P-3 naval flight officer, he's completed operational tours with the "Tridents" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 26, the "Golden Eagles" of VP-9 and commanded the "War Eagles" of VP-16. Additionally, he served as assistant navigator on aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). Ashore, he served as flag aide to Commander, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Forces, U.S. Sixth Fleet; as an assignments officer at Navy Personnel Command; as naval aide to the vice president of the United States in the White House; and in the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs.
"It has been a privilege and honor to serve alongside this amazing group of Sailors and Marines as the XO for the last 20 months!" said Melson. "I'm humbled everyday by the selfless things they accomplish. It's the ultimate honor to assume command of a ship with such a warfighting legacy. I'm beyond excited to see everything this team will provide to the combatant commander."
Makin Island, the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, is homeported in San Diego, and is making preparations for a scheduled deployment this fall.
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