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Capt. Samuel Perez Jr. is rendered honors by members of the USS Kitty Hawk’s wardroom Thursday as he departs the Kitty Hawk for the final time as the outgoing commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15.

Capt. Samuel Perez Jr. is rendered honors by members of the USS Kitty Hawk’s wardroom Thursday as he departs the Kitty Hawk for the final time as the outgoing commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15. (U.S. Navy photo)

Capt. Samuel Perez Jr. is rendered honors by members of the USS Kitty Hawk’s wardroom Thursday as he departs the Kitty Hawk for the final time as the outgoing commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15.

Capt. Samuel Perez Jr. is rendered honors by members of the USS Kitty Hawk’s wardroom Thursday as he departs the Kitty Hawk for the final time as the outgoing commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15. (U.S. Navy photo)

Capt. Tom Parker gives a speech before turning over command of the USS Kitty Hawk to Capt. Ed McNamee during a change-of-command ceremony Thursday on the flight deck.

Capt. Tom Parker gives a speech before turning over command of the USS Kitty Hawk to Capt. Ed McNamee during a change-of-command ceremony Thursday on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo)

The commanders of the only overseas-based aircraft carrier and the destroyer squadron that guards it swapped out Thursday during shipboard ceremonies at sea.

It was a coincidence that the change of commands for the USS Kitty Hawk and Destroyer Squadron 15 occurred on the same day, during the ship’s latest deployment.

Capt. Ed McNamee, a former helicopter pilot who once commanded HS-14 at Naval Air facility Atsugi, took the ship’s helm from Capt. Tom Parker, who has led the carrier since February 2003, including during the ship’s deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As the ship’s 33rd CO, McNamee commands about 3,000 people in port at Yokosuka Naval Base, and 5,200 including Carrier Air Wing 5 while at sea.

“Because of the support of every member of the crew, this has been a truly great tour,” Parker said at the ceremony, according to a Navy release. “We were part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, completed a dry-docking period, aced the Board of Inspection and Survey, and have been under way for extended periods.”

Also Thursday, Capt. Robert P. Girrier assumed the position of commodore of the Navy’s largest standing destroyer squadron from Capt. Samuel Perez Jr.

In 1997, Girrier commanded the Sasebo-based USS Guardian in support of 7th Fleet.

He now leads seven destroyers and frigates in DESRON 15: USS Curtis Wilbur; USS John S. McCain; USS Fitzgerald; USS Gary; USS Vandegrift and the new ships, the USS Steham and USS Lassen, both expected to arrive this summer.

During the separate change-of-command ceremonies, Carrier Group Commander Rear Adm. James D. Kelly presented Parker and Perez with Legion of Merit medals for their leadership.

Parker, whose charismatic leadership gave rise to amusing daily updates on the shipboard intercom and the term “battle cat magic motion lotion” for jet fuel, is headed to U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Perez leaves Yokosuka for an assignment with the Chief of Naval Operations Study Group in Newport, R.I.

The Yokosuka-based ship has been deployed since May 23 for its summer tour.

Meet the new guys

Capt. Ed McNamee, a former helicopter pilot who once commanded HS-14 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, joined the Yokosuka-based USS Kitty Hawk on Thursday as the 33rd commanding officer.

He takes over for Capt. Tom Parker, who led the ship since February 2003.

Capt. Robert P. Girrier took over as the commander of Destroyer Squadron 15 from Capt. Samuel Perez Jr.

DESRON 15 includes: the USS Curtis Wilbur; USS John S. McCain; USS Fitzgerald; USS Gary; USS Vandegrift and the new ships, the USS Steham and USS Lassen, both expected to arrive this summer.

The ship, DESRON 15 and Carrier Air Wing 5 are part of the Kitty Hawk Battle Group.

— Juliana Gittler


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