NORFOLK (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 8 held a change of command ceremony at Norfolk Naval Station, April 17.
Rear Adm. Victorino G. Mercado was relieved by Rear Adm. Bret C. Batchelder as commander, Carrier Strike Group 8.
Mercado assumed command of CSG-8 in June 2014. He led the strike group when it shifted flagships from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to support fleet readiness and operational requirements. Following the shift, he successfully guided the strike group's ships and aircraft through an intensive maintenance and modernization availability and basic training, laying the foundation for integrated strike group operations.
Adm. Phil Davidson, commander, United States Fleet Forces Command and former CSG-8 commander praised Mercado's leadership.
"Thank you and well done to a friend and leader who built a solid foundation for CSG-8; my old carrier strike group, and still my favorite CSG," said Davidson. "Vic excelled while leading the strike group - and his responsibilities were vast - 7,500 Sailors, 14 ships and the seven aircraft squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 7. He put them on the path to be able to fight and to win."
Mercado, in turn, thanked the Sailors of the strike group for their unwavering talent, dedication and professionalism.
"I commend the great work put forth by the crews of Ike and Truman as they continue preparing their ships to train, fight and deploy to defend the nation," said Mercado. "It has been an honor to serve with these outstanding Sailors and their leadership. With the help of our shipyard partners, these warships are better equipped to return to sea to perform operations around the globe. I will follow closely their certain, continued success."
Mercado's previous commands include commanding officer, USS Decatur (DDG 73), which completed an accelerated deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and commander, Destroyer Squadron 21 as sea combatant commander for the John C. Stennis Battle Group.
Mercado's next assignment is director, assessment division, N81, office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Batchelder, a decorated naval aviator with more than 100 combat missions and more than 1,000 carrier-based landings, said he is excited to take command of CSG-8, which includes the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
"It is an incredible honor to take command of Carrier Strike Group 8," said Batchelder. "I applaud the hard work, dedication and resiliency the strike group has shown to meet every challenge thrown at them through a series of demanding maintenance and training evolutions."
Batchelder, a Colorado native, has served much of his naval career aboard aircraft carriers including USS Midway (CV 41), USS Constellation (CV 64), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Truman, while attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 151 and as commanding officer of VFA-105. He also served as commander, Carrier Air Wing 11.
Most recently, Batchelder commanded Joint Enabling Capabilities Command as part of U.S. Transportation Command.
"A carrier strike group is an awesome thing," said Davidson. "Carrier Strike Group 8 can go wherever and whenever our nation needs it, in incredibly short order. A strike group commander can collect its ships, aircraft and submarines and speed to any distant corner on the planet. A carrier strike group's mission is concise: to be ready to conduct prompt sustained combat operations at sea and they do so, always, in defense of this nation and its interests."
CSG-8's subordinate commands include Truman, Carrier Air Wing 7, the guided-missile cruisers USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and USS Hue City (CG 66), as well as ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron 28; the guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely (DDG 107), USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109).
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.