PACIFIC OCEAN , –
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) received a new commanding officer during a change of command ceremony Dec. 13.
Capt. John Howard relieved Capt. Andrew Smith, who served as Wasp's commanding officer since April 2016.
Because of the schedule involving Wasp's current transit to Sasebo, Japan, the ceremony took place while steaming in the southern Pacific Ocean.
"What this day is about, is me thanking all of you... I want to thank all of you Stingers for serving our Navy and our nation," said Smith during his remarks, invoking the term used to refer to Wasp Sailors. "What this crew has accomplished over the last three years is quite simply amazing, and it has been an inspiration to me to be a part of it.
Wasp returned to Norfolk from its first deployment in more than a decade in December 2016, after supporting Operation ODYSSEY LIGHTNING, and other operational commitments in. After a five-month yard period and a compressed work-up schedule, Wasp prepared to transit to Japan for a scheduled homeport shift.
Only four days into their transit, Wasp was diverted to the Caribbean where its crew served as the first responders to St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, and the island nation of Dominica in the wakes of both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Wasp also assisted Puerto Rico, whose infrastructure had been devastated by the hurricanes. After nearly two months of humanitarian relief missions, Wasp departed for a brief stop in Mayport, Florida for repairs and supplies, and resumed her transit to Japan.
Capt. Howard, who had previously served as the Wasp's Executive Officer before taking command, offered some insight regarding the accomplishments of the crew, and noted his hopes for the future. Wasp.
"I am very fortunate to be able to be part of this," said Howard, during his remarks. "The challenges ahead are no more severe than what we have already done, and I have great confidence that you will meet the way ahead with all the success... with the things we have already accomplished. I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with you, very excited to become a member of Team Wasp, and looking very much forward to the next couple of years."
Wasp is currently transiting to Sasebo, Japan in order to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as the amphibious flagship of 7th fleet.