USS Fitzgerald
"Protect Your People"
Fitzgerald Welcomes New Commanding Officer
YOKOSUKA, Japan (May 29, 2014) Cmdr. Christopher England, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), salutes the sideboys after taking command during a change of command ceremony held on the ship's flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Abby Rader/Released)
Fitzgerald Welcomes New Commanding Officer
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Abby Rader, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Japan
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The officers and crew assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) ended an era and began a new chapter with a change of command ceremony on the ship's flight deck, May 29.

Cmdr. Christopher England assumed command of Fitzgerald from Cmdr. Jonathan Schmitz, marking the end of 17 months of command for Schmitz.

"To the Fitzgerald crew, I promised you three things when I took command," said Schmitz. "Number one, we will face challenges. We did. Number two, we will work together in the face of adversity. We most certainly did. Number three, we will continue to succeed against all odds. We most definitely did that. There is no challenge too hard, there is no quit. There was only dedication to fitness, family, and Fitzgerald, in that order. We smiled through the pain and we achieved the unachievable."

Under Schmitz's command, Fitzgerald contributed to regional stability and theater security operations in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The ship also participated in carrier strike group operations and various exercises such as Valiant Shield, Keen Sword, Foal Eagle, and Multi-Sail.

Before turning over his duties, Schmitz expressed his gratitude for the dedicated hard work from the crew during his command.

"DDGs are made of steel; inanimate objects, but ships are made of blood, sweat and tears," said Schmitz. "We are constantly giving our fair share, but it was worth it."

England, who previously served as the ship's executive officer, opened his speech thanking the Fitzgerald family and her supporters.

"What I admire most about Fitzgerald is that we do it together, and most importantly, we do it as a family," said England.

England ended his speech giving words of encouragement to members of the Fitzgerald crew and their families.

"Always remember that those of us in uniform that are around this flight deck today couldn't do it without you," said England.

"Cmdr. Schmitz has set the bar high by leading the crew to success in every mission we have been tasked," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Alex Rocha, assigned to Fitzgerald. "Cmdr. England's challenge will be to take the Fitzgerald to even greater victories and further our tradition of excellence."

Fitzgerald is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
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