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SAN DIEGO - A new commanding officer took command of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during a change of command ceremony, Sept. 6.
Capt. Rich LeBron relieved Capt. L. G. McCullen, who served as Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer since April 2017.
Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, the presiding officer at the ceremony, praised McCullen for his dedication and diligence while the ship was in his charge.
“Captain McCullen, although he was an aviator by trade, was far ahead of the curve,” said Pringle. “He developed an in-house educational program and integrated study halls to improve advancement and warfare qualification percentages among the crew. His commitment resulted in over 700 advancements and over 1,000 warfare qualification pins earned under his leadership.”
McCullen took command of Bonhomme Richard while the ship was forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. Under his guidance, the crew has successfully completed the biennial U.S.-Australia bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 17, the 37th iteration of the Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise Cobra Gold 2018, and the biennial combined amphibious exercise Ssang Yong 2018. He also led the homeport change to San Diego, Calif., taking the ship from the U.S. 7th Fleet to the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations.
"My crew’s honor, courage and commitment made me proud to serve with them as their commanding officer" said McCullen. “We took this ship to new heights in material readiness and operational excellence.”
McCullen encouraged the crew to continue to strive for excellence as the new commanding officer takes charge of Bonhomme Richard.
“I want you to continue to stay focused on the mission, to be ready to answer the call to serve our nation and our Navy when asked to,” said McCullen. “I want you to continue to make an impact each and every day, not only onboard this ship, but throughout your Navy career.”
During the ceremony, McCullen was presented with the Legion of Merit award for his service, dedication and leadership.
LeBron officially assumed the title of commanding officer after orders were read and salutes rendered.
LeBron served as Bonhomme Richard's executive officer from April 2017 to Sept. 2018.
“As the fleet has come to learn since we have arrived in San Diego, we are Sailors who, when called upon, are ready,” said LeBron. “I assure you for whatever comes, Bonhomme Richard is ready now, ready always!”
“Commitment to excellence is your choice and I see you make it every day,” added LeBron as he shared his expectation with the crew. “Be the best at what we do: train, maintain, clean, preserve and operate. Work hard and smart and overcome our challenges. Choose to do these things well and the rest will follow.”
LeBron enlisted in the Navy in 1989. He rose through the ranks as a submarine quartermaster to earn a commission as a Surface Warfare Officer. LeBron’s previous commands include USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), USS Milius (DDG 69), Pacific Afloat Training Group, USS Benfold (DDG 65), Chief of Naval Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Southern Command, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe, and U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters.
Bonhomme Richard is the third vessel to carry the name and its historical legacy, and the sixth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class amphibious assault ships. Its mission is to embark, deploy and land elements of the Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by aircraft, amphibious vehicles or any combination of these methods, as well as provide humanitarian assistance.