USS Essex Holds Change of Command Ceremony

The commanding officer of USS Essex (LHD 2) was relieved of command June 18, by Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.

Capt. Chuck Litchfield was relieved based on the findings of an investigation that was convened by Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, following a collision at sea between USS Essex and replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) May 16, off Southern California. There was no damage to fuel tanks reported and no fuel spilled at sea. No injuries were reported from either ship. The underway replenishment was part of normal ship operations for both vessels and was in preparation for Essex’ scheduled return to San Diego, after completing 12 years as the Navy’s only permanently forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan.

Essex will depart as scheduled to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise.

Litchfield, who took command of USS Bonhomme Richard Feb. 3, and subsequently conducted a hull swap with USS Essex April 23, has been administratively reassigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Capt. Jonathan Harnden has temporarily assumed command of Essex until a permanent replacement is assigned. Harnden previously commanded USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

Naval Today Staff, June 20, 2012