CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Captain Kenneth J. Norton became the fourth commanding officer of the Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) May 2, relieving Captain Terry B. Kraft in a ceremony aboard the ship, moored pier side at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, Calif.
During the ceremony, Norton told the crew and the dignitaries, which included Michael Reagan, the son of the ship's namesake, how honored he was to assume command.
"I am humbled at the prospect of commanding this ship," Norton said. "I am sure this morning as President Reagan looks down at this magnificent instrument of Peace Through Strength, he views with pride the most professional crew in the world."
Norton, who came to Ronald Reagan after serving at the United States Strategic Command, thanked his predecessor, Capt. Kraft, for his tremendous dedication during the ship's first two deployments as well as the recent successful pre-deployment training exercises.
"The ship looks brand new, it smells brand new, and is in excellent material condition," remarked Norton. "I know you rode the ship hard over the past 30 months, but you couldn't tell by looking at her."
Kraft, who led the crew during its maiden deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a surge deployment to the Western Pacific in 2007, praised his crew for a tenure in which the ship earned a Battle "E" for combat efficiency in 2006 and multiple accolades for excellence.
"I've set the bar high, and was very demanding," said Kraft. "You never let me down; every single time you delivered."
Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7, presented Kraft with his second Legion of Merit for his service to his nation. Kraft, who was recently selected for rear admiral, will report to Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific.
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. President, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.
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