Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas Jr., left,, commander of U.S 7th Fleet; Rear Adm. John Nowell, middle, commander Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7; and Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald cut the cake at the ESG 7 change of command ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Taylor A. Elberg)

WHITE BEACH, Okinawa - Rear Adm. John B. Nowell assumed command of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7) and Task Force 76 (CTF 76) from Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald during a change of command ceremony aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Aug. 29.

During the ceremony Wetherald spoke about the accomplishments of the Strike Group and what it all meant to him.

“This is a day to celebrate the Amphibious Force of the 7th Fleet and more specifically Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and the tremendous success that we have had over the past two years, “ said Wetherald. “I have never seen a staff, or a crew or any organization in the navy rise to a challenge as ESG-7 has; I have never been more proud as I am of these extraordinary men and women.”

Wetherald leaves ESG 7/ CTF 76 to report as Deputy Director for Resources and Acquisitions, J-8, Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. where he has been selected to the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper-Half).

Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, served as the guest speaker and presented Wetherald with his fourth Legion of Merit recognizing him for his leadership and exceptional meritorious service as the ESG 7 commander and to the United States Navy.

Nowell who served as Chief of Staff at U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa as well as Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Resources, and Plans, U.S. 6th Fleet said in a short speech that it is an honor to be chosen to lead the amphibious forces of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

"It is an honor again to serve in the 7th Fleet,” said Nowell. “I cannot think of a more important or relevant place to work on the goal of promoting and achieving our national security objectives.”

Task Force 76/Expeditionary Strike Group 7 is the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.