ARABIAN GULF (Oct. 04, 2017) Sideboys render honors to Rear Adm. Bill Byrne as he prepares to depart the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) after turning over command of Carrier Strike Group 11 to Rear Adm. Gregory Harris. Nimitz is currently deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in the region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marcus L. Stanley/Released)
Carrier Strike Group 11 Holds Change of Command in Arabian Gulf

ARABIAN GULF – Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 Sailors and Marines welcomed a new leader during a change of command ceremony in the fo’c’sle aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Oct. 4.

Rear Adm. Gregory N. Harris relieved Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr. as commander, CSG-11, in front of leadership and Sailors from CSG-11, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 and Nimitz.

A change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition conducted before assembled Sailors to announce the passing of command authority. It is the immediate transfer of total responsibility, authority, and accountability from one individual to another.

Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/commander, U.S. 5th Fleet/commander, Combined Maritime Forces, was the guest speaker. He congratulated Byrne on his many successes during his tenure and gave words of encouragement to Harris as he takes the helm.

Byrne, a surface warfare officer, led Nimitz through a long shipyard period, through a compressed work-up cycle and into an arduous combat deployment to the U.S. 3rd, 7th, and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR). While in 7th Fleet his keen focus on developing relationships and warfighting capabilities served as the groundwork for exercise Malabar 2017. The most complex and largest exercise conducted with our Japanese and Indian partners, Malabar 2017 integrated and deepened ties with key partner nations. In U.S. 5th Fleet, he led his team through combat missions in direct support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“I owe our successes to each and every one of you,” said Byrne. “Our successes have come as we have operated together as an entire strike group, ready and willing to take the fight forward as a well-equipped, tactically sound, unstoppable force with maximum combat power.

“This team has taught me more in the last year than I’ve learned in my last 29 so for that I thank every single one of you,” Byrne said. “I now transition from team captain and head coach to head cheerleader.”

Byrne’s next assignment will be commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 15 in Coronado, California, where he will lead the command-at-sea, and academic integrated and advanced training of carrier, expeditionary, and amphibious ready strike groups – a job for which Aquilino said Byrne is highly qualified, especially after his impressive work leading CSG-11.

“I turn the helm over today to Rear Adm. Gregory “Hyfi” Harris, a phenomenal warfighter who is perfectly suited to lead this team to victory,” said Byrne.

Harris is a naval aviator with over 4,200 flight hours. He has flown over 100 combat missions and intends to fly during his time aboard Nimitz. This will be his second tour aboard Nimitz.

“I’m absolutely humbled to be able to work with this team,” Harris said. “I was former CAG 11 on this ship about five years ago and it is awesome to be home on Nimitz. I am following in huge shoes.”

Harris was commissioned in 1987 at the U.S. Naval Academy and earned his aviator wings in May 1993. He previously served as Commander of Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center in Fallon, Nevada.

CSG-11 is based out of Everett, Washington, and comprises Nimitz, embarked staff of CSG-11 and DESRON 9, CVW 11, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers USS Princeton (CG 59) and USS Lake Erie (CG 70), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Hopper (DDG 70), USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Pinckney (DDG 91) and USS Kidd (DDG 100).

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