SOUTH CHINA SEA - Commander, Task Force (CTF) 70 held a change of command ceremony, Sept. 29, in the hangar bay of America’s flagship, the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff assumed command of CTF 70, the U.S. Navy’s largest battle force, from Rear Adm. Karl O. Thomas.
Thomas led CTF 70 through various multinational exercises including Malabar, Keen Sword, Valiant Shield and Talisman Sabre. He worked closely with many U.S. allies, friends and partners in the Indo-Pacific region to increase the U.S. Navy’s interoperability with other nations.
"I’ve had the absolute privilege to work with and lead the greatest group of patriots our Navy and country has to offer, and you should be justifiably proud of the important role you play in our national defense strategy,” said Thomas. “Your contributions and professionalism to our friends and allies has vastly enhanced peace and prosperity in the region, and built trust and increased interoperability with our partners."
Wikoff became the 75th commander of Battle Force 7th Fleet, after being the assistant director for global integration and current operations, J3, Joint Staff.
"I want to extend my most sincere thanks to Admiral Thomas for all of his great work over the past 14 months,” said Wikoff. “His leadership has strengthened the lethality of our forward-deployed naval forces, and I look forward to continuing the culture of excellence he inspired within the strike group."
Wikoff received his commission through the George Washington University NROTC program and earned a Master of Science in Operational Management from the University of Arkansas.
Thomas’ next assignment is as the assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy in Washington.
CTF 70 has tactical control of carrier strike groups, cruisers, and destroyers that deploy or transit through the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
The CTF 70 commander also serves as Commander, Carrier Strike (CSG) 5, the Navy's forward deployed strike group centered around Ronald Reagan and the embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW) 5.
CTF 70 units are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.