U.S. Navy ceremonies never disappoint and the change of command ceremony aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Sept. 14 showcased the elemental ingredients of an age-old tradition: dazzling white uniforms worn by an impressive crew, intimidating warfighting hardware, toe-tapping music from a Navy band and beautiful blue skies in port Naval Station Norfolk.
On this occasion, Adm. Bill Gortney relieved Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., as U.S.Fleet Forces (USFF) commander amid hundreds of distinguished guests, shipmates and crew members.
Harvey, a surface warfare officer and a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, assumed command of U.S. Fleet Forces in July 2009. In his more than three years of command, Harvey led with a razor-sharp focus on fleet readiness. A prolific blogger with a large following, Harvey often explained how he made the tough decisions he often was called to do, and he was noted for encouraging services members of all ranks to further their professional and personal development by extensive reading.
Gortney, a naval aviator and 1977 graduate of Elon College in N.C., became the 33rd commander of USFF. He has served in a variety of command positions afloat and ashore, including most recently as Director, Joint Staff for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command; Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Forces Maritime Component Commanders. He also commanded Carrier Strike Group-10 on the Norfolk-based USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert served as guest speaker and discussed the importance of payloads rather than platforms in maintaining an adaptable maritime force. Greenert pointed to the Navy's carriers as examples of maximizing a platform’s adaptability through the use of a variety of payloads.
"Adaptability is the absolute essence of being a Sailor, and we get that adaptability when we think about payload before platform. Replacing platforms is expensive, but when we look at payloads first, payloads that support cutting-edge technology -- it can be a game changer," Greenert said.
But Truman and ships in port nearly eclipsed the principal participants and distinguished guests. Anchored across the pier from Truman were the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). During the past two years, Lincoln has completed two deployments, including an eight-month change of homeport deployment that brought her to Naval Station Norfolk from Naval Station Everett, Wash., her home since January 1997. Over the next four years, Lincoln will undergo a refueling complex overhaul in Newport News, Va.
In April 2009, the Bainbridge captured the world’s attention when its captain and crew rescued Capt. Richard Phillips, the master of M/V Maersk-Alabama, who was being held captive by Somali pirates.
On the Truman where colorful signal flags were blowing in a brisk breeze, the hangar deck, where the ceremony was held, boasted an F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, and a banner, in recognition of the ship’s namesake, inspired the crew to: "Give ’em hell."
But don’t think for a minute that Truman is a mere showboat. Truman deployed Sept. 24 to conduct combat systems ship qualification trials (CSSQT). CSSQT is an operational test of Truman's close-in weapons system (CIWS), rolling airframe missile (RAM) and NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (NSSMS).
As the guests departed Truman, the sun was still shining brightly on the Atlantic Fleet — all in all — another great Navy day aboard Naval Station Norfolk.