Sailors cross the brow during a hull swap ceremony between the guided-missile cruisers USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Antietam (CG 54), Feb. 5 in Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - USS Antietam (CG 54) relieved the forward-deployed USS Cowpens (CG 63) during a hull swap ceremony between the crews of the two guided-missile cruisers, Feb. 5..

Cowpens, which has been forward deployed to Yokosuka since 2000 will be reassigned to U.S. 3rd Fleet and be homeported in San Diego, where she will receive upgrades. Antietam will operate from Yokosuka.

"For the past decade Cowpens has been a significant asset to Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF), and it has spent many years patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific," said Commander, Task Force 70, Rear Adm. Mark C. Montgomery. "The movement of Antietam here shows our continued commitment as a naval force to the strengthening of our FDNF forces."

Sailors who have critical training will remain with their respective vessels, but the majority of each ship's crew will switch vessels.

Many of the Sailors are optimistic about the hull swap, and are looking forward to new opportunities.

"It's a great thing," said Antietam's new Command Master Chief (SW) Michael Kaszubowski. "7th Fleet just got a brand new asset. Like Admiral Montgomery said, it's a "game changer" in 7th Fleet, and some of new systems we have onboard Antietam can really do a lot of great things for 7th Fleet. Cowpens did really well, she has been out here for about 11 years, but it's time for her to go home and enjoy some of that nice California sun."

Antietam is a Ticonderoga-class cruiser like Cowpens, but she has more updated combat systems capabilities. She also carries some new capabilities such as cooperative engagement and the ability to act as air commander for the strike group underway.

Despite all the excitement about the hull swap, some Sailors expressed some sadness in switching ships.

"I'm a little bit sad honestly to see Cowpens go because she was my first ship," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Ashley Jerousek. " I think it's really awesome that we are getting the opportunity to break in a new ship out here."

"The hull swap process has been a unique adventure, and something that I have never been through before," said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Electrician (SW) Travis Miller. "It has it's ups and downs, but there are things to look forward to- like getting a new ship."