Dress uniforms come out for Nimitz change of command

EVERETT — Some changes of command happen at sea, with little pomp and circumstance. The new skipper shakes hands with the outgoing commander and it’s done.

On Thursday morning, the Navy pulled out all the stops for a ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz at its new home of Naval Station Everett. The event was the first Nimitz command change held here.

Many Navy officers consider commanding an aircraft carrier to be a pinnacle in their careers, and this ceremony was special for commander Capt. Paul Monger, 51, who has served as captain of the ship since 2009, and the new commander Capt. Jeff Ruth, 47, who is set to serve for the next three years. Both men are from Navy families, many of whom came from across the country to witness the event. Other guests included local mayors and Navy support people.

It looked like a wedding, except that nearly 1,000 sailors in dress uniforms stood at attention, the Navy Region Northwest Band played a Sousa march and the decorations were all the flags of the ship, including a new banner designed by Nimitz communications specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Wolfe. The banner features the ship’s number, 68, along with slogans held dear by Adm. Chester Nimitz, for whom the warship is named. More than one person at the ceremony noted that the trident on the new banner forms the initial E, as in Everett.

After a gun salute, the affable Navy Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao, commander of the Nimitz Strike Group, explained that such a ceremony is primarily for the ship’s sailors. “It is important for you to witness the formal change. Your attitude through all the recent changes has been stellar. Thank you for taking care of Capt. Monger. Now you must apply the same loyalty to Capt. Ruth,” he said.

Gumataotao thanked the “ohana,” a Hawaiian term for extended family, in the crowd for attending and called Monger and Ruth by their nicknames, “Mongo” and “Doc,” as he wished them well.

Ruth served as executive officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln from March 2008 to December 2009, when the Lincoln was based in Everett. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1986 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1988. His experience includes two stints at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He most recently commanded the U.S. 6th Fleet’s flagship, USS Mount Whitney.

“My dad was a Navy pilot, and that’s what I wanted to do, too. So I come with that experience and I appreciate the team we call the Nimitz,” Ruth said. “We love the Pacific Northwest and are happy to be back. I even got a new Gore-Tex jacket.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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