ABOARD USS INGRAHAM, At Sea (NNS) -- Cmdr. Mark D. Colby relieved Cmdr. John Kersh Jr. as commanding officer of USS Ingraham (FFG 61) Aug. 23, during a change-of-command ceremony held on the ship's forecastle.
Capt. David Thorson, commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, was the guest speaker for the event, and he took the opportunity to look back on Kersh's time aboard "America's Battle Frigate." More specifically, Thorson spoke of Kersh's contributions to the nation's global war on terrorism.
"Twenty-two months ago, Cmdr. John Kersh took command at sea with our nation at war," Thorson said, "and now he relinquishes his command at sea with our nation still at war. He has answered the call to our Navy and to our nation."
Prior to handing over Ingraham to his successor, Kersh expressed thanks and joy for having worked with the crew of the guided-missile frigate, sharing his beliefs in leading the crew.
"My command philosophy is ship, shipmates, self. Ship -well executing the mission at hand. Shipmates - keeping each Sailor safe and living by the 'Golden Rule,' think of others first; this is the ideal of selfless service. Self - work on good family relationships and your qualification," Kersh said. "Everyone aboard USS Ingraham has lived up to these values."
Continuing his praise for his crew, the 1984 U.S. Naval Academy graduate further commended his Sailors' excellence in carrying out their assigned missions and their patriotism during the nation's global war on terrorism.
"The USS Ingraham has done everything I wanted and more. The USS Ingraham has been the best of ships since commissioned in 1989, thanks to you," he said. "My final analysis - this Navy that we all love is about shipmates and service to nation. I am sure the USS Ingraham will continue to live up to these ideals."
Before officially turning over the helm, Kersh highlighted many of the crew's accomplishments during his more than 600 days in command. These included more than 400 days underway, 74 successful underway replenishments, 44 port calls - 15 during the ship's current deployment, two nominations for the CIWS (Close-In Weapons Systems) Excellence award, a Blood Hound Award nomination, and most importantly, the 2001 Battle "E" Award.
Kersh bid farewell to his crew, then read his orders, officially passing the torch to Colby.
Following the traditional reading of orders by both officers, Colby formally relieved Kersh. He then addressed the Ingraham crew for the first time as their commanding officer.
"I'm humbled by the honor of assuming command of USS Ingraham today," Colby said to the crew. "I hope to lead Ingraham to the same mission successes you have come to expect from her under [Kersh's] expert leadership. To the crew - what can you expect from me as your new commanding officer? We'll build on the legacy left by Cmdr. Kersh ... to continue a professional, fun and rewarding approach to excellence and mission accomplishment. As I place the [command-at-sea pin] above my right breast pocket for the second time, I am humbled, honored and excited at what the future holds."
The new commanding officer spoke of those who helped him reach his current position, specifically showing his appreciation to his predecessor for the time spent prior to the change-of-command ceremony and for his guidance in taking over the frigate's helm.
"Over the past six days, I have been in awe of his amazing skills as a naval officer, mentor, leader and gentleman," Colby said. "I promise to give this ship and these Sailors my absolute best."
Colby is a familiar face to the Carl Vinson team; his current assignment marks his third deployment with the supercarrier. As engineering officer aboard USS Arkansas (CGN 41), Colby deployed to the Arabian Gulf with the Carl Vinson Battle Group in support of Operations Desert Strike, Southern Watch and Vigilant Sentinel. Later, as USS Rainier (AOE 7) operations officer, he again steamed alongside the 'Gold Eagle' in support of Operations Desert Fox and Southern Watch.
Prior to assuming command of Ingraham, the 1985 U.S. Naval Academy graduate served as commanding officer of USS Mount Vernon (LSD 39) from March 2003 and to the ship's decommissioning in July.
Kersh's next assignment will take him to Tactical Training Group Atlantic in Dam Neck, Va., as the expeditionary strike group syndicate head.
Ingraham is one of five ships assigned to the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. The strike group is currently deployed to the western Pacific in an effort to maintain America's standing commitment to peace, stability and theater security cooperation in coordination with allies and friends in the region.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.