USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Cmdr. Ryan Keys relieved Cmdr. Edgardo "Cheech" Moreno as commanding officer (CO) of the Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11 Dragonslayers in an airborne change-of-command ceremony in the skies above deployed aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), July 6.
The ceremony began on the flight deck as Moreno addressed the crew of HS-11, offering his appreciation and gratitude to the squadron he had led.
"You are my family," said Moreno. "I have nothing but love and respect for all of you."
Moreno also expressed a deep honor for having the opportunity to lead the Dragonslayers.
"When you say 'take care of your people,' that's easier said than done," said Moreno. "You have to do a lot to take care of your people. The first thing you have to do is lead from the front."
Following the airborne portion of the ceremony, which included a ceremonial "lead change" carried out by Keys and Moreno, Keys took center stage and addressed the crew as the new commanding officer of HS-11.
"We will continue the Dragonslayer traditions of mission accomplishment, safe flying and mentorship," said Keys. "Every person in this command plays a critical role on this team and must respect each other."
Keys, the previous executive officer of HS-11, then offered his thanks to Moreno for setting a favorable leadership example for him to follow.
"Thanks Cheech, for all that you've done for the squadron for the past two-and-a-half years," said Keys. "You didn't tell me how to be a good CO. You showed me how to be an outstanding CO."
Capt. Jeffrey Trent, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, also addressed the HS-11 crew, expressing gratitude for a job well done by Moreno and welcoming Keys as the new commanding officer.
"He [Moreno] cares deeply about his people," said Trent. "He holds his people accountable. Most importantly, he loves you Dragonslayers."
"I know he (Keys) will continue to take the Dragonslayers to bigger and better heights," added Trent.
This deployment will be the final deployment for any squadron embarked aboard Enterprise, as the ship is scheduled to be decommissioned following its return to homeport in Norfolk. Consequently, this makes the last in-flight change of command the Dragonslayers will ever conduct aboard Enterprise.
"It feels bittersweet, but I am honored to have had the opportunity to do an airborne change of command on this final historic deployment of the Big E," said Moreno.
Moreno will go on to attend the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
With the completion of the change of command, HS-11 pilots will continue to fly combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
"I would like to say that it has been an absolute privilege to serve with each and every one of my Dragonslayers," said Moreno. "I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve with such a phenomenal group of consummate professionals."
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