USS America holds second change of command

Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) hosted its second change of command while moored at Naval Base San Diego, Aug. 26.

During a formal ceremony, Capt. Joseph R. Olson relieved Capt. Michael W. Baze as America’s commanding officer. The ceremony took place in front of a crowd of 500 crew members lined up in ranks and approximately 200 guests which included Lynne Pace, the ship’s sponsor, and Rear Adm. Daniel H. Fillion, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, who served as the ceremony’s guest speaker.

The event marked the end of a successful tour for Baze, who served as commanding officer from May 2015 through August 2016. During his speech, Baze reflected on his experience as the ship’s pre-commissioning executive officer and as America’s second commanding officer in the ship’s short history. He also expressed his sincere appreciation for the crew’s hard work and dedication throughout America’s journey from the ship’s christening in 2012 to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

“From the pre-commissioning phase, where it was just a building and a couple of people, all the way to … this beautiful instrument of our nation’s power, which you see around here today … America’s Sailors and Marines have [and will continue] to fight and strive for greatness,” said Baze. “The ship and crew are here as a comfort to all freedom-loving people around the world. They’re fearsome and [have proven] they are going to win every time.”

He also recognized the importance of support from America’s loved ones and how they helped shape the ship from the beginning.

“America’s spouses are always volunteering and helping make us strong, like our ombudsmen and our Family Readiness Group,” said Baze. “My most sincere admiration and my thanks go out to you all.”

Olson, who served as America’s executive officer since March 2015, expressed his thanks to Baze and his wife for helping the crew build the legacy of this unique platform.

“On behalf of the officers, chiefs, crew and family members of USS America, I want to formally thank Capt. Wayne Baze and Chandra Baze for their dedication, leadership, guidance and support they have provided,” said Olson. “You have created a foundation of success on USS America. Thank you both for everything you have done.”

Olson addressed the crew during his speech, stating the ship still has an important responsibility ahead.

“My challenge to the crew is simple,” said Olson. “We have many more tasks at hand and in the coming year as we prepare for deployment. We must be ready. We must continue to be outstanding representatives and ambassadors. Keep doing what you are doing. Work to be the best every day. Along the way, help each other out like teammates and shipmates should; we can and we will be the best ship on the waterfront.”

America recently participated in the multinational maritime exercise RIMPAC 2016. America is the fourth ship named “America” and the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. It is optimized for aviation, and is capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The ship was designed with additional aviation spaces and provides increased aviation capacity, including an enlarged hangar bay, the realignment and expansion of aviation maintenance facilities, and increased aviation fuel capacity.