BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 held a change of command ceremony aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Aug. 29.

Sailors, distinguished visitors, and guests gathered in John C. Stennis' hangar bay to bid farewell to Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock and welcome Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer as the new commander of CSG 3.

Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, was the ceremony's guest speaker and presiding officer, and presented Hitchcock with the Legion of Merit.

"No team has been better prepared to succeed than the John C. Stennis Strike Group under Hitch's leadership," said Tyson. "We have literally thrown everything we can think of at this team and they continuously excel."

Following an award presentation, Hitchcock and Wettlauffer read their orders, officially changing command.

Hitchcock's next assignment will be commander of Navy Warfare Development Command, Norfolk.

"It's been a great privilege and an honor to command the John C. Stennis Strike Group for the past 16 months," said Hitchcock. "This team always came together to support each other and accomplish every mission and I could not be more proud than I am of the John C. Stennis Strike Group."

During Hitchcock's time in command, CSG 3 completed a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and participated in Exercise Foal Eagle 2016 with the Republic of Korea, Exercise Malabar 2016 with the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and Rim of the Pacific 2016, the world's largest international exercise.

Wettlaufer previously served as executive officer of John C. Stennis and commanded the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, USS Denver (LAD 9), and John C. Stennis.

"Thanks for setting me up with this great team," said Wettlaufer. "I know you have set us on a path for success and I am honored for the opportunity and I look forward to working with this great team."

The John C. Stennis Strike Group consists of John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron 21 embarked, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71, Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133, and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 14, 41, 97 and 151.

CSG3 is comprised of the units making up JCSSG and also includes independent deployers: guided-missile destroyers USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Gridley (DDG 101).

John C. Stennis is in port training for future operations after completing its planned incremental availability (PIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility five days ahead of schedule. During PIA, the ship and shipyard team accomplished the largest work package ever for an aircraft carrier in a six-month availability.

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