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USS Ashland gets new skipper during Sasebo ceremony

The USS Ashland is seen at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, on Jan. 17, 2014.

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Humanitarian workhorse USS Ashland got a new skipper Friday.

The Sasebo Navy community, as well as the crew of the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship, gathered on deck on a chilly morning to celebrate the tenure of outgoing captain Cmdr. John Barnett, who was then replaced by former executive officer Cmdr. Douglas Patterson.

Barnett and Patterson were credited with changing the culture aboard the Tortuga and later the Ashland after a hull swap last year.

The Tortuga had been nicknamed the “Tortanic” in Navy circles but later developed a reputation as a dependable piece of the 7th Fleet’s amphibious force. Neither ship missed an operational commitment in the past three years.

Barnett’s tenure onboard the Tortuga, and later the Ashland, was marked by participation in Operation Tomodachi following Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster three years ago as well as Operation Damayan in November after Typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines.

Before coming aboard the Tortuga in June 2012 as executive officer, Patterson previously completed tours with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Seven, USS Germantown as its engineer officer and as an individual augmentee with the Defense Energy Support Center as its bulk fuel responsible officer for Tactical Petroleum Terminal Cedar II in An Nasiriyah, Iraq.

He becomes the ship’s 16th commanding officer.

“I am humbled to be your captain,” Patterson said shortly after his pennant was raised high above the ship.

The Ashland arrived in Sasebo in August 2013 after a stint in Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va. It was the first amphibious ship in the Navy to embark female sailors as permanent members of the crew in 1994.

burke.matt@stripes.com

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