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Capt. Tim LaBenz assumed command from Capt. Tom Ogden of DESRON 7, the Navy's only forward-deployed DESRON in Southeast Asia.
Following a primarily virtual change of command ceremony in 2021 due to measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this ceremony aboard Charleston included the entire DESRON 7 staff as well as friends and family of the incoming and outgoing commodores in addition to being broadcast to attendees across the world.
“The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition that honors our heritage, formally notes the transition of command from one officer to another, and celebrates our accomplishments. There’s no better place to do it then on the deck of one of our deployed Navy warships,” said Ogden.
Ogden arrived at DESRON 7 in November 2019, first serving as the command's deputy commodore before assuming the role of commodore in February 2021. As commodore, Ogden supported the first-ever simultaneous rotational deployment of three Independence-variant littoral combat ships USS Jackson (LCS 6), USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and Charleston to the Indo-Pacific.
Ogden also commanded the DESRON 7 staff embark of the USS America (LHA 6) in the summer and fall of 2021, in which the staff held and executed a variety of responsibilities during the Talisman Sabre 2021 exercise. While leading sea combat during this exercise, DESRON 7 held tactical control of over 17 units including ships and aircraft from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom. The exercise resulted in the DESRON 7’s Sea Combat Commander (SCC) certification.
“All credit for these past 19 months goes to the adaptability, commitment and tenacity of the Golden Arrows of DESRON 7,” said Ogden. “Our staff’s ability to simultaneously serve as SCC, plan and execute theater security cooperation exercises, and support LCS out of Singapore and Guam while operating from Bangladesh to Japan and south to Australia is a testament to these men and women of whom I have had the privilege to work with.”
As DESRON 7 looks forward, the command plans to continue to flex its capabilities by participating in complex exercises and operations throughout U.S. 7th Fleet in 2022 and beyond.
“It has been my privilege to serve as deputy commodore, and I am honored for the opportunity to serve as commodore and build upon Captain Ogden’s foundation and successes,” said LaBenz.
LaBenz arrived in January 2021, following time at Navy Personnel Command, Surface Officer Distribution Division (PERS-41) as the branch head (PERS-412), responsible for detailing all surface warfare officer junior officers for assignments as division officers, department heads and early command officers.
He previously served as the commanding officer and executive officer of USS Sampson (DDG 102), which including deployments to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. Under his command, Sampson provided earthquake relief efforts during the ship’s historic visit to New Zealand, marking the first U.S. Navy ship to visit the country in over thirty years.
“Operating in the Indo-Pacific provides unique challenges and opportunities,” said LaBenz. “I am so grateful to be leading a staff of Officers and Sailors who understand the region’s importance and complexities. I look forward to everything we accomplish together.”
Charleston, part of DESRON 7, is on a rotational deployment, operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
As the U.S. Navy’s destroyer squadron forward-deployed in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.