BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) Office Korea held a change of command ceremony aboard USNS Watson (T-AKR-310) in Busan, Republic of Korea, June 24.
Cmdr. David Bartell relieved Cmdr. Christopher Cruz as commanding officer of MSC Office Korea in the joint Army/Navy change of command ceremony.
Army Lt. Col. Kristian Rogers also relieved Army Lt. Col. Samuel Blanton as commanding officer of the Korea-based 837th Transportation Battalion during the ceremony, which had more than 300 attendees and incorporated traditions from both services.
MSC Office Korea plays a vital role in defense of the Republic of Korea by supporting MSC ships in the Korean theater of operations and providing fuel, supplies and ammunition to forces operating in the area. MSC Office Korea coordinates closely with the 837th Transportation Battalion, which oversees and executes shoreside movement of supplies delivered to shore by MSC ships. More than 90 percent of all cargo destined for U.S. forces in Korea arrives in Busan.
"Today's joint ceremony is just another example of how the Army and Navy coordinate closely on all levels, even though we are different services with different cultures," said Capt. Chip Denman, commander of MSC's Sealift Logistics Command Far East, which oversees MSC Office Korea. "Here in Korea, this coordination ensures that U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, as well as international military partners operating in theater, have the equipment and supplies they need at the precise time and location they need them."
"Under both Cmdr. Cruz and Lt. Col. Blanton, both MSCO (Office Korea) and the 837th have forged a deep friendship and unity that is unmatched in the history of pier eight," said Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Harvey, the commanding general of 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the ceremony's principal speaker.
A 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Bartell comes to MSCO Korea from the staff of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. Bartell is a seasoned naval aviator who served aboard aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS John F. Kennedy in support of operations Southern Watch and Allied Force. He completed two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I've heard nothing but great things about MSCO Korea, and I am very fortunate to take command of this fine organization," said Bartell.
In Cruz's 24 months at MSC Office Korea, the command's operational tempo tripled as it provided logistics support to more than 240 MSC ships visiting 10 Republic of Korea ports. Cruz also led the command's participation in major Korea-defense exercises, including Ulchi Freedom Guardian and Key Resolve.
Cruz was also a champion of numerous charities in and around Busan.
"The Cruz family forged special relationships with our host nation, which will last for years to come," said Denman.
In recognition of his efforts, Denman presented Cruz with the Meritorious Service Medal.
All honored guests were piped aboard Watson and, per Army tradition, both incoming and outgoing commanding officers participated in the passing the command flag, symbolizing the transfer of command. The ceremony concluded with a rendition of both Army and Navy songs.
Capt. Chris Larkin, Watson's civilian master, served as the ceremony's host. Crewed by civilians working for a private company under charter to MSC, Watson is a Navy ship named for Army hero, Army Pvt. George Watson, who received the Medal of Honor for service during World War II. With more than 390,000 square feet of cargo space, Watson is ideally suited to transport military cargo anywhere around the world.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.
For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.