CORONADO (NNS) -- Capt. Terry B. Kraft relieved Capt. James A. Symonds as commanding officer of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a change of command ceremony on the ship's hangar deck Nov. 17.
Prior to turning over command, Symonds told the crew that it was both an honor and a privilege to have served as the commanding officer of the ship named for one of America's greatest presidents.
"This tour is the highlight of my career, the best job in the Navy," said Symonds. "What is most important is the opportunity to work with the great people from our country who volunteer to serve in the Navy and to positively affect their lives and the lives of their families. I have enjoyed that responsibility and sharing that responsibility with outstanding leaders throughout the ship," he said.
"My tour as the commanding officer of a nuclear aircraft carrier was even more rewarding because I commanded USS Ronald Reagan in southern California. It is a perfect match of ship and region. I represent the entire crew when I say it's a great honor to carry on the legacy of our great president and American hero," said Symonds.
Symonds assumed command of Reagan in August 2003 shortly after the ship was commissioned. During his time as commanding officer, the ship completed its first Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), as well as initial Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX). He also commanded Reagan as the ship traveled "around the Horn" of South America to arrive at its new home port of San Diego in July 2004.
Kraft previously served as the commanding officer, USS Shreveport (LPD 12) from December 2003 until September 2005.
"This ship stands for the legacy of one of our greatest presidents. His optimistic leadership began a new era of American strength and resurgence which continues to this day," said Kraft. "His spirit lives on through the great Sailors that have made this ship combat ready," he said.
Designated a naval flight officer in 1982, Kraft's squadron tours have included Attack Squadron (VA) 128, VA-55, VA-115, VA-95, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, and VAQ-131. Shipboard tours include serving as executive officer aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) from February 2002 to December 2003.
Kraft's personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy Meritorious Service Medals, and multiple individual and strike-flight Air Medals.
Symonds, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral, will assume duties as the director, Environmental Protection, Safety and Occupational Health Division on the Navy Staff in Washington, D.C.
Commissioned in 2003, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Ronald Reagan is home to more than 6,000 Sailors who make up the ship's crew, staff of Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7, and Carrier Air Wing 14.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.