YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) – Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet (C7F) flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) held a change of command ceremony on the ship’s main deck, Dec. 12.
Capt. Craig C. Sicola relieved Capt. Eric J. Anduze as commanding officer in front of a crowd of distinguished visitors, guests and crew.
The ceremony marked the end of Anduze’s command, which began Nov. 16, 2018.
“For the last 13 months, I have been fortunate to have one of the best jobs in the Navy,” Anduze said in his farewell remarks. “There were certainly long days and maintenance challenges that tested all of our skills and patience, but being part of this Blue Ridge team has been amazing.”
Sicola took over as the ship’s 31st commanding officer, taking over the oldest active commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy. Upon officially taking command, he took a moment to highlight the accomplishments the Blue Ridge team achieved over the course of its 49-year history.
“I am truly blessed to be here today, and I thank you for entrusting me to command this prestigious warship. It is quite an honor,” Sicola said. “The new year will bring us new operational challenges and amazing opportunities in which we will succeed together, as this ship has done for almost five decades.”
Displaying that drive was the mission of the current Blue Ridge crew. Under Anduze’s command, they worked to push the ship through its final basic phase and warfare certifications, type commander (TYCOM) ready-for-sea assessment, and more than 26,000 nautical miles of safe underway operation, ensuring a mission-ready platform for the C7F mission. They also navigated through 11 port calls in seven nations, greatly strengthening relationships and trust with vital partners in the region.
During the ceremony, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, Rear Adm. Fred W. Kacher showcased the crew’s numerous achievements led by Anduze.
“Those achievements don’t happen by accident, and although (Capt. Anduze) would be the first to say his Sailors did the work to earn them – we all know that leadership starts at the top. I am incredibly proud of you and your entire team and wish you great success.” Kacher said during his keynote remarks. “(Capt. Sicola), you will be a superb addition to our forward-deployed team and join us with an impressive list of your own accomplishments. I have tremendous confidence in you and am thrilled to have you on our team.”
For all the ship’s achievements in the last 13 months, Anduze said he had no one to thank more than the ship’s crew.
“It has been my honor being your Captain. You have made my job easy, your professionalism, dedication, and mission accomplishment are amazing,” he said. “Words cannot express the admiration and respect I have for your accomplishments and the support you provided me. I will always be in your debt. Continue to thrive, continue to become experts at your trade, (and) don’t ever give up.”
Sicola, a native of Dallas, graduated from Texas A&M University in 1994 and became a Naval Aviator in 1997. He assumes command of Blue Ridge after serving as the executive officer aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Blue Ridge, part of ESG 7, is the oldest operational ship in the Navy and has been the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship since 1979. As the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship, Blue Ridge actively fosters relationships in support of security and stability within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.