LISBON, Portugal – Navy Capt. Karl Thomas was relieved as commanding officer by Navy Capt. Jeffrey Ruth during a change of command ceremony aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), Aug. 12.
Navy Rear Adm. John M. Richardson, Deputy Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, made opening remarks as the guest speaker.
"Captain Thomas and his crew delivered across the board and measurably contributed to all our lines of effort in theater," said Richardson. "Under your command, Mount Whitney executed all missions and answered every bell, providing superb support to numerous U.S. and International command staffs."
Richardson also stressed Thomas' dedication to his people.
"Your leadership, characterized by your personal integrity and your desire to do the right things, inspired your crew and their families," said Richardson.
Richardson then awarded Thomas the Legion of Merit medal prior to Thomas addressing the audience.
“I’d like to start by saying to my team, thank you for all you’ve done,” said Thomas. “This award is yours and I’ll wear it proudly and think of each and every one of you each day I don my uniform.”
Thomas thanked the audience as he reflected on several successes during his tour aboard Mount Whitney.
“First and foremost we accomplished the mission, but we did it and had fun at the same time,” said Thomas. “I’ll always cherish memories like hiking up Mount Rettentore as a crew, swim call during the tiger cruise, captain’s cup, command-wide dodge ball and our recent sports day in Brest, France.”
After Thomas’ remarks, the time had come for Ruth to assume the watch.
“I’m extremely proud that I have been given the opportunity to command this ship and her unique crew,” said Ruth. “I look forward to both serving with you and learning from you as we move forward to meet the challenges ahead.”
After the ceremony, a reception was held for all crewmembers and guests to mingle while saying their goodbyes to Thomas.
Mount Whitney, the flagship for the U.S. 6th Fleet, is homeported in Gaeta, Italy, and operates with a hybrid crew of U.S. sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners.