SAN DIEGO - With crashing ocean waves and overhead naval aircraft serving as the backdrop, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 15 held a change of command ceremony on Naval Air Station North Island, June 13.
Rear Adm. Dave Welch, from Peoria, Illinois, relieved Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, from Pacifica, California, to become the 74th commander since establishment in 1930. Vice Adm. John Alexander, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet presided over the ceremony.
CSG-15 differs from traditional carrier-based strike groups in that its mission is to mentor, train and assess Pacific Fleet carrier strike groups, amphibious ready groups and independent deploying ships, recommending them for certification during the final, integrated phase of the Navy’s fleet response training plan.
“We live in a day and age where we must remain ready to deploy when the call comes and to execute the missions to the fullest. We must be ready to fight tonight and make sure our ships are fully trained and certified to deploy. This is absolutely critical. That is what Bill Byrne and CSG-15 are charged with doing,” said Alexander.
The mission, functions, tasks and naming of the command have evolved since inception in 1930. CSG-15 began as Carrier Division One (COMCARDIV 1) and was the first aircraft carrier formation in the United States when it was organized in October of 1930 as part of the Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Fleet, operating in the Pacific Ocean. In June 1973, COMCARDIV 1 was designated as Commander Carrier Group One (COMCARGRU 1). In December 1990, COMCARGRU 1 was designated as the Pacific Fleet Training Battle Group with responsibility for training Pacific Fleet Carrier Battle Groups during the inter-deployment training cycle. In 2005, the name was changed to Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific, and then again in 2014 to Carrier Strike Group 15, which remains the command’s present-day nomenclature.
During Byrne’s twenty months in command, the command achieved unprecedented integration with its east-coast counterpart at Carrier Strike Group 4, which included numerous at-sea observer visits and yearly cross talks designed to provide consistency in fleet training. Additionally, under his watch, the staff spearheaded an initiative to ensure a formalized hand-off between phases of the training cycle, identifying crucial shortfalls then rapidly working to address those deficits in subsequent phases.
“CSG-15’s mission is to train, mentor and assess the fleet through the final stages of their predeployment workups. Once they deploy, their success is our success and because our deployed forces have been kicking butt over the last two years, that defines our success,” said Byrne. “I love the Navy because I love being part of a winning team. CSG-15 is just the latest of a long string of winning teams that I have had the honor to play on. These are winning teams that bring value to the bigger team.”
Byne’s next assignment will be assistant chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N53), where he will serve as the principal advisor to the chief of naval operations on joint operations and the development of joint strategies, plans, programs, and policies.
Rear Adm. Welch takes the helm of CSG-15 having recently served as the Commander of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. His previous tours include command of the guided missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), Destroyer Squadron 31, and the Surface Warfare Officers School Command. Ashore, his assignments included three tours in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and assignments with the Navy Personnel Command, and the United States Pacific Command.
During his remarks, Welch reflected on his personal commitment to the CSG-15 staff as well as what this responsibility as a fleet trainer means to him as a naval leader. “I look forward to working with you. Our mission and mandate are clear. I pledge to provide clear guidance, and transparency in important strategic decisions. I also pledge to be a strong advocate on your behalf – and on behalf of fleet training requirements. I have much to learn from you as well. I am excited to stand before you, and I am honored to lead you. There is great urgency in what we do. Let’s get to it,” said Welch.
CSG-15’s mission is to direct, execute, mentor, and assess academic at-sea live synthetic integrated training of carrier strike group, expeditionary strike group (ESG), amphibious ready group, surface independent deployers, allies, and other designated groups, enabling them to operate in integrated, joint, and coalition environments in the conduct of combatant and operational commander tasking.