SOUTH CHINA SEA - USS Denver (LPD 9) held a change of command ceremony aboard the ship on Oct. 18 while steaming in the South China Sea.
Capt. Michael Wettlaufer relieved Capt. Mario Mifsud as commanding officer, becoming the 29th commanding officer of Denver since the ship’s commissioning in 1968.
“I am very fortunate and humbled to have the opportunity to work with this fine crew, mess and wardroom as we tackle future challenges,” said Wettlaufer. “I am honored to be aboard and serve with each of you.”
Wettlaufer is a native of Denver, Colorado and his education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Colorado State University, a Master of Science degree in Aviation Systems from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
In 1988 Wettlaufer was designated as a Naval Aviator. He has since served as a test pilot and landing signal officer with Strike Aircraft Test Squadron, department head to the “Dambusters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, fixed wing tutor and test pilot at the Empire Test Pilots’ School in the United Kingdom, associate fellow in the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group, executive officer and commanding officer of VFA-195, and executive officer aboard USS Stennis (CVN 74).
The ceremony brought to a close a successful 16-month command tour for Mifsud. During that time Denver Sailors chose to stay in the Navy at a high rate, earning the ship the Golden Anchor Award for retention excellence. During the ceremony, Mifsud recognized them for their hard work and dedication.
“While our Navy has set out to achieve greater diversity in our force, we have known for a very long time that the strength of America and its Navy is its people,” said Mifsud. “I would submit there are no greater Americans than those of you who stand before me today.”
Mifsud's next assignment will be as commanding officer of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at Georgia Tech University.
Denver is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is underway conducting operations in the Western Pacific.