SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The officers and crew stood in formation on the flight deck as the dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) held a change of command ceremony while pier side at Naval Base San Diego, March 1.
With the traditional exchange of salutes, Cmdr. Thomas S. Stephens turned over command of Rushmore to Cmdr. Sarah H. DeGroot, who had previously served as the ship's executive officer.
Special guests for the ceremony included Rear Adm. Daniel H. Fillion, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, and Capt. Clinton A. Carroll, commander, Amphibious Squadron 3.
"When I spoke in June of 2014, as Cmdr. Stephens took command, I talked about the permanence of the [Rushmore] monument and how that spirit of American vision and determination is also carried forward by the Sailors and Marines of the ship. If the monument serves as a symbol of American majesty brought forward with hard work and humility, then so too does the ship," said Carroll. "You have been well-led by Capt. Stephens and I am so very proud of all that you have accomplished."
During Stephens' tenure, Rushmore conducted a seven-month Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment and participated in ten exercises, including Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, where Rushmore conducted international amphibious operations with forces from Australia, Canada, Tonga, Indonesia and Mexico, as well as launched and recovered the experimental ultra-heavy amphibious connector (UHAC). During WESTPAC 2015, "America's Gator" rescued and assisted 65 Indonesians who had been adrift in the Makassar Strait for four days without food or water and later served as an afloat forward staging base with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. The task force conducted maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden which aided in identifying shipping routes and disrupting illicit smuggling.
"As a crew, you prepared well and were always ready for the mission, whether in support of planned exercises at sea or ashore, whether in support of contingency operations or safety of life at sea, you always came through to execute the mission, every time, on time or early...It's been a pleasure watching you demonstrate your operational capability and execute every mission that was thrown our way," said Stephens.
De Groot was born in Long Beach, California, received her commission, 3rd Mate commercial license, as well as Bachelor of Sciences in Marine Biology and Marine Transportation in 1998 from Texas A&M, Galveston Maritime Academy. She reported to the Rushmore as the executive officer after serving as the director of Combat Systems and Tactics Training, as well as lead tactical action officer mentor at Afloat Training Group San Diego.
"You have done incredible things over the nearly two years I have been [executive officer]. It has been a joy to be a part of your unbelievable accomplishments," said De Groot. "Because of your exceptional achievements, I know without a doubt that I am the most blessed commanding officer coming into the seat because of [the crew of Rushmore]."
De Groot's sea tours include USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) as the first division officer and the electrical officer, USS Constellation (CV 64) as the combat systems maintenance officer, USS Rushmore (LSD 47) as the 1st lieutenant and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50 as the force protection officer.
She served ashore at the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force as a C4I systems liaison officer and as the flag secretary for Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic.
Rushmore is entering a maintenance period and will be in the shipyard until starting the training phase in early 2017.
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