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YOKOSUKA, Japan - USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) celebrated the anniversary of her 25th year of commissioned service in a July 2 ceremony that highlighted the ship's past while also looking to the future.
Guest speakers included three of the guided-missile destroyer's former commanding officers: Capt. Chase Sargeant, Capt. Jeffrey Kim, and commissioning commanding officer, retired Capt. Jake Ross.
Each man offered his own unique glimpse into his chapter of the ship's story, the character of its crew, and the challenges and triumphs they saw it through. Exactly 25 years to the day, Capt.(Ret.) Ross shared the stage once again with the ceremony's final guest speaker, ship sponsor Mrs. Cindy Hensley McCain, wife of the late Senator John S. McCain III.
“My family and I are honored to be included in the 25th anniversary of the commissioning of the USS John McCain. As the ship's sponsor, I got to play a role in her commissioning. This ship serves as a symbol of our family's legacy of service to the country,” said Cindy McCain. “The crew of the USS McCain sails to defend the interests and values of our country, and wherever they go, the spirits of John Sidney McCain, senior, junior and the third, sail with them.”
The ceremony then transitioned to a look to the future, as the current commanding officer of John S. McCain, Cmdr. Micah Murphy, relinquished command to Cmdr. Ryan Easterday. Cmdr. Murphy's tour began at the same time the ship arrived in Tokyo Harbor back in December of 2017, following a collision at sea that August. From there, he worked to rebuild and upgrade the ship to return a more capable and lethal ship to the fleet. He also worked to restore its crew - their skill, pride, and the fighting spirit that has long been associated with the “Big Bad John.” Addressing the assembled crew, guests and visitors, family and friends, Murphy acknowledged the unconventional nature of his tour, and his excitement for the next phase of the ship's life.
"Sailors love to tell sea stories - not shipyard stories," Murphy said during an all hands call the day before ceremony. "It's when you are underway that you really start to gel as a team, where we get to know each other better, really learn your craft."
"This has been the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime," he continued. "But I am extremely grateful for it." Murphy thanked his family, his mentors, and his crew, before addressing Easterday. "I now pass you the pen and the honor and responsibility of leading this outstanding team to write the next chapter."
Murphy will relieve Cmdr. Gil Clarke as commanding officer of Afloat Training Group Western Pacific, where he will be responsible for the training of ships stationed in the 7th Fleet area of operations, including USS John S. McCain.
Easterday previously served as executive officer onboard John S. McCain, working alongside Cmdr. Murphy to prepare the ship for its return to sea.