Capt. Thomas Rowden relieved Capt. Rob Taylor as commander of the Gaeta, Italy-based Destroyer Squadron 60 during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the 6th Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney on Friday.

Destroyer Squadron 60 does not have any ships permanently assigned to it. Destroyers and frigates moving in and out of the 6th Fleet area of operations, which covers all waters surrounding Europe and most of Africa, become part of the squadron once they enter the area from either the Middle East or western Atlantic.

The squadron was set up in February 2003 with only three Navy personnel, including the outgoing Taylor, and got off to a running start during the Iraq war.

“Our Operation Iraqi Freedom mission was the safe transit of forces and provisions through the Strait of Gibraltar,” explained Taylor, who as the commander of a Navy squadron carried the title of Commodore. “During the war we ensured more than 300 vessels safely transited here to keep the logistics line open from the United States to Iraq.”

The squadron has since grown to eight members, but has also gained responsibility for commanding Navy patrols in the region and commanded many NATO exercises and operations.

Nearly 100 American and Italian guests attended the ceremony, including retired Vice Adm. William H. Rowden, the new commodore’s father, who commanded the 6th Fleet between 1981 and 1983.

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