COLUMBO, Sri Lanka (NNS) -- Capt. Matthew Paradise relieved Capt. Kyle P. Higgins as commanding officer USS Blue Ridge during a change of command ceremony, March 29, in Columbo, Sri Lanka.
Blue Ridge is currently on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations, strengthening and fostering relationships in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Higgins served as commanding officer for more than 14 months, leading the ship and crew through two patrol cycles. During one cycle the crew rescued five stranded Filipino fisherman and passed several ship inspections, and the ship was awarded the Battle "E" Efficiency Award for the second year in a row.
"It is obvious that I'm stepping into a terrific command," said Paradise. "That is a true testament to the men and women of Blue Ridge, but it's also a testament to its commanding officer. Thank you for leaving me such a great legacy. I'll make you proud and build on it."
"His commitment to the mission and the combat readiness of Blue Ridge has been evident as the ship has been performing magnificent in every occasion," said Rear Adm. John Nowell, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, the guest speaker at the ceremony. "In places like the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, or here in Sri Lanka, Blue Ridge has served as host to a multitude of foreign dignitaries, diplomats, high-ranking government and military officials. These engagements are critical as we look at an uncertain and volatile world, one where partnerships really matter."
Paradise assumes command as the 28th commanding officer of the Blue Ridge since the ship's commissioning on November 14, 1970.
Blue Ridge held a reception on the main deck immediately following the ceremony to celebrate and bid farewell to Higgins.
"This ship certainly reinvigorated me," said Higgins. "And I can't thank everyone on the Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet team enough for what they've done for the ship. She is 46-years-young and she's got 30 more left in her because of the work that is put into her every single day."
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, for 36 years. As the flagship for 7th Fleet, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
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