Capt. Elaine A. Collins, of Shoreline Washington, relieved Capt. Todd E. Whalen, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, native, as commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 during an Oct. 27 change-of-command ceremony aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Gulf.
Whalen served as commodore since July 2019 and oversaw the execution of maintenance, training and deployment preparations for the eight DESRON 9 ships, including USS Sterett (DDG 104), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), currently deployed as part of Carrier Strike Group 11. DESRON 9 also includes USS Halsey (DDG 97), currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet, and USS Howard (DDG 83), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Shoup (DDG 86) and USS Sampson (DDG 102). Whalen led three additional destroyers assigned to Carrier Strike Group 11 in U.S. 5th Fleet.
Whalen has also performed duties as Nimitz Carrier Strike Group Sea Combat Commander. Under his leadership, the destroyers executed key freedom of navigation operations, dual carrier operations with the Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups and a cooperative deployment with the Indian Navy in U.S. 7th Fleet.
While operating in U.S. 5th Fleet, the destroyers have played a critical role in Carrier Strike Group 11 tasking in the area of operations, taking part in maritime security operations such as patrolling the Bab el Mandeb Strait and Strait of Hormuz, and supporting Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel, the operational arm of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC). As Sentinel ships, the three destroyers have spent more than 54 days in direct or associated support of the task force to ensure the free flow of commerce and provided overwatch for more than 517 critical chokepoints transits.
Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11 Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, the ceremony's guest speaker and presiding officer, presented Whalen with the Legion of Merit.
“The Sailors of Destroyer Squadron NINE have risen to every challenge on this deployment," said Kirk. "Their perseverance throughout many challenges maintaining and operating their ships set a high standard. I'm proud to have served with Commodore Whalen. His leadership leaves the staff, the Sailors, and each of his ships, better for his efforts.”
Whalen recognized the DESRON 9 team for their work throughout the tour.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime serving with you the past three years and deploying with DESRON NINE during the year of our 100th anniversary,” said Whalen. “Thank you for your tremendous personal sacrifice in getting our ships ready for combat operations at sea. I look forward to watching you continue to excel under the leadership of Commodore Collins.”
Both Collins and Whalen had previously been assigned to DESRON 9 earlier in their careers as commanding officers of attached ships. Collins served aboard USS Momsen (DDG 92) from March 2013 to Aug. 2014, and Whalen aboard the USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) from May 2013 until its decommissioning in Jan. 2015.
Collins most recently served as the deputy commander of DESRON 9. Whalen will assume duties at the office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
“Serving as your deputy has been a privilege and I am grateful to continue to work with this talented team as your Commodore as we continue operations throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Collins. “DESRON NINE has a long history of excellence at sea and I am honored to continue that legacy with you.”
DESRON 9 is part of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three critical chokepoints to the free flow of global commerce.
LCDR. Liza Dougherty
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