OKINAWA, Japan - Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl assumed command of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76 from Rear Adm. Fred Kacher during a change of command ceremony at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, May 12.
Presiding over the ceremony was Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “Fred, you were exactly the right leader of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 when the fleet needed you most. A tough year, I am thankful for your great work and the tremendous achievements of your team,” said Merz.
During Kacher’s time as commander, the Sailors and Marines of ESG 7 expanded naval integration and warfighting concepts, and combated the challenges of the pandemic throughout each deployment. In the past 18 months, the strike group executed four deployments covering a range of amphibious operations to include embarking and operating the F-35B Lighting II aircraft on USS America (LHA 6), integrating with Mark VI patrol boats and expeditionary mine counter measure detachments, expeditionary strike force operations and executing more than a dozen exercises and operations with U.S. allies and partners in the region.
Additionally, during Kacher’s command the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and the 31st MEU earned numerous unit and individual awards including the Admiral James Flatley Memorial Award (2020) for an exceptional safety program and record. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Edward Navarro, assigned to the mine countermeasures ship USS Chief (MCM 14), was selected by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery as the Surface Independent Duty Corpsman of the Year (2018); Quartermaster 2nd Class Anastasia Clark, assigned to America, was selected for the Admiral Arleigh Burke Surface Warfare Operational Excellence Award (2020); and the Destroyer Squadron 7 public affairs officer, Lt. Lauren Chatmas, was selected as Junior Public Affairs Officer of the Year (2020).
"Leading Expeditionary Strike Group 7 over two years and four strike group patrols has been an absolute professional privilege," said Kacher. "I am honored to have been a part of this extraordinary team of 7th Fleet Sailors and Marines who put it on the line every day to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific. I have no doubt ESG 7 will continue to excel under my friend Chris Engdahl's superb leadership."
Kacher’s next assignment is in Washington, D.C. as the assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, N3/N5B, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Engdahl, a native of South Bend, Indiana, and the son of a Navy chaplain, is a 1990 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Prior to assuming command as ESG 7, Engdahl served as the president of the Board of Inspection and Survey.
“It is an absolute privilege to be selected for command of ESG-7 and I am looking forward to working with this incredible group of professionals in this dynamic region,” said Engdahl.
Engdahl will now command Expeditionary Strike Group 7/CTF 76, which consists of Amphibious Squadron 11, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USS America (LHA 6), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Germantown (LSD 42), Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7, USS Chief (MCM 14), USS Pioneer (MCM 9), USS Patriot (MCM 7), USS Warrior (MCM 10), Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 14, Fleet Surgical Team 7, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, and Naval Beach Unit 7.
ESG 7 is forward-deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.