Taking Charge

SAN DIEGO - Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden relieved Vice Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III as Commander, Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) and Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC), during a change of command and retirement ceremony aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4), Aug. 7.

Change of Command

“Leaving a command is relatively difficult, but leaving a career is even tougher. I’ve had a great tour at SURFPAC and it has a lot to do with the hard work and dedication of the SURFPAC staff. The thing I am most proud of is getting the spotlight back on our Sailors and ensuring we get them the right training and experience and that they are arriving on our ships at the right time to meet the requirements of our daily operations,” said Copeman. “Surface warfare warriors have manned our ships with their heart and soul since the birth of the United States Navy and we should be rightfully proud of our significant contributions to the success of our Navy in peace time and in war.”

As SURFOR, Copeman’s priorities were to support warfighting first; increase readiness for Sailors and civilians; and build the future force. His leadership directly improved training and professional development for enlisted Sailors and commissioned officers, in part by implementation of the Basic Division Officers Course (BDOC). BDOC shifted the focus of training for new surface warfare officers to aid them in better applying knowledge gained from shipboard experience with classroom and applied instruction. During his tenure, he prepared USS Freedom (LCS 1) for the first-ever deployment of an LCS to the Asia-Pacific region. He also promoted on energy-based weapons; and integration of computer-based training.


 Warships Ready for Combat


 Training Crews to Fight and Win


 Developing Our Sailors


 Awards and Recognition



ADM Greenert VADM Copeman VADM Rowden

“One of my key points has been presence around the world. The world we live in can be dangerous and our Navy needs to be where it matters, when it matters,” said Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert. “The face of the Navy is the surface force and they are the ones that are on-site first. This command accepts, integrates, sustains and maintains more than140 ships and oversees the training of the crews. It is a full-spectrum, combat force around the world and it is one that is ready for prompt and sustained operations.”

Greenert thanked Copeman for his leadership as the surface fleet commander and for his contributions to the Navy. He also welcomed Rowden and his family, as he takes command of the surface fleet. Rowden, who was promoted to vice admiral before the ceremony, stated he loves being a surface warfare officer and has worked his whole life to prepare for this job.

“I have always had a passion for this profession from the time I was a little boy watching my dad go to work, through the Naval Academy and onto several command and flag tours. There was never a doubt which career path I would take,” said Rowden. “The business of the Navy is on ships and no other part of our Navy is as necessary in peace and war as our ready surface force. Nothing is as reassuring to our nation and allies as the sight of the American flag flying proudly from the halyard of a ready, well-trained surface ship.”

Rowden, a native of Washington, D.C., and a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has served in a range of sea and shore assignments. His sea duty assignments include duty in cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. He served as commanding officer of USS Milius (DDG 69); reactor officer aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73); commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 60; commander of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group; and commander of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group.

Ashore, he served on the Joint Staff as an action officer in the Defense and Space Operations Division (J38); on the Chief of Naval Operations staff as the theater missile and air defense branch head for the director of Navy Missile Defense (N71), and as the executive assistant to the director of Surface Warfare (N76). He completed a tour as surface warfare officer (nuclear) assignment officer at the Bureau of Naval Personnel Command, and served as commanding officer of Surface Warfare Officers School Command, Newport, R.I. His first flag assignment was Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Korea. His most recent assignment was on the Chief of Naval Operations staff as director of the Surface Warfare Division (N96).

SURFOR is responsible for the proper manning, training, and equipping of the surface fleet, as well as overall readiness of littoral combat ships, mine counter-measure ships, cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious ships. Surface Warfare Magazine

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