Epperson Relieved by Polk as Middle Pacific Afloat Training Commander

Story Number: NNS081107-02Release Date: 11/7/2008 4:20:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Afloat Training Group, Middle Pacific (ATG MIDPAC) held a change-of-command ceremony Oct. 30 on historic Ford Island.

During the ceremony, Capt. Dell W. Epperson was relieved by Capt. Ricks W. Polk as commanding officer of ATG MIDPAC.

"From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone for making this an extraordinary day and an extraordinary tour of duty," said Epperson.

Epperson assumed command of ATG MIDPAC in July 2005. As ATG MIDPAC commanding officer, Epperson supervised more than 1,000 shipboard assessments, led the efforts of standardizing the seven ATG sites worldwide, and assisted in the development of a formal command strategy.

As he leaves Hawaii, following 11 years at commands throughout the island, Epperson thanked the ATG MIDPAC Sailors he has commanded during this tour.

"Today, I have to say goodbye to what has truly been the best three years of my professional life," said Epperson. "The people I am most proud of serving with are the ATG MIDPAC Sailors standing in ranks."

Capt. Pete Morford, commodore of ATG, Pacific, commended Epperson for his leadership tactics during his time as ATG MIDPAC commanding officer.

"Whenever I talk to ATG Pacific Sailors, I always start and end with three words - important, best and proud," said Morford. "Captain Epperson embodied those three words in everything he has done in his 39 months at ATG MIDPAC. I don't know how you did it all, but you set an aspiring example for the rest of us."

After assuming command, Polk discussed his future goals for ATG MIDPAC.

"Under my command, we will continue to work across the waterfront to create training solutions that serve warfighters and help make warships ready for tasking," said Polk. "I am blessed to lead these proud warriors, and I look forward to working with many of you as we continue to tap the potential of our collective resources to provide our nation with the best fighting force possible."

During the ceremony, Morford presented Epperson with the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

Epperson will be reporting to Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., to serve as professor of naval science.

Polk previously served at the U.S. Naval Academy. As commanding officer of ATG MIDPAC, Polk will oversee comprehensive and detailed shipboard and classroom training and assessment to Pacific Fleet ships and other military units in order to maintain a high state of combat readiness.

For more news from Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrh/.

Capt. Ricks Polk salutes as he is piped through sideboys.
081030-N-9758L-006 PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (Oct. 30, 2008) Capt. Ricks Polk salutes as he is piped through sideboys during a change of command ceremony aboard historic Ford Island. Capt. Dell Epperson was relieved by Polk as commanding officer of Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron/Released)
October 31, 2008
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