USS Ross changes commanders days after its Syria missile strike

Cmdr. Russell Caldwell presents a gift to his son during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the USS Ross in Cyprus on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Caldwell, who led the ship's missile assault on Syria, turned over the helm to Cmdr. Bryan Gallo.


By SCOTT WYLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 12, 2017

One of the most memorable moments in Cmdr. Russell Caldwell’s Navy career came in his final week at the helm of the USS Ross.

Caldwell supervised the ship’s cruise missile strike against Syria’s Shayrat air field on April 7. The Ross and the USS Porter, both based in Rota, Spain, launched 59 Tomahawks at the base from the Mediterranean Sea.

Caldwell relinquished command of the Ross on Tuesday during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship in Cyprus. Cmdr. Bryan Gallo becomes the vessel’s new commanding officer.

Caldwell commanded the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer for only 18 months, but during that time he developed deep respect for the ship and its crew.

“I truly believe the USS Ross is the best ship in the fleet,” said Caldwell, who is heading to San Diego to oversee development of surface-warfare manuals.

Gallo takes charge of the Ross after spending 18 months as the ship’s executive officer. “I am honored and humbled to be the [commanding officer] of such an accomplished warship and incredible crew,” Gallo said in a statement.

The Ross and Porter were doing regular patrols when they were ordered to carry out the missile assault from the eastern Mediterranean. President Donald Trump ordered the attack in response to reports that the Syrian regime had unleashed deadly sarin gas on civilians.

Trump phoned Caldwell and Cmdr. Andrea Slough, the Porter’s commanding officer, to praise them on how they executed the mission.

Caldwell and Slough said they were honored to hear directly from Trump that the attack accomplished its purpose, and that it showed how lethal and precise Navy ships can be in attacking land targets.

Caldwell is passing to Gallo the helm of a 20-year-old warship that has spent many months in and around the Mediterranean since 2001, providing maritime support for the war on terrorism.

During a 2015 exercise, the Ross used its anti-ballistic system to shoot down a Terrier Orion missile launched from a range near Scotland. It was the first time a U.S. Navy ship intercepted a ballistic missile in space at a foreign site.

Twitter: @wylandstripes

Crews salute Cmdr. Russell Caldwell, who departs the USS Ross after a change-of-command ceremony on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Caldwell, who oversaw the ship's missile attack on Syria, turned over the helm to Cmdr. Bryan Gallo.

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