Capt. Rich LeBron, the newly appointed commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, passes through the sideboys following a change of command ceremony in the ship’s hangar bay. Navy photo

A new commanding officer took command of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard during a change-of-command ceremony.

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 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,” Pringle said. “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 more than 700 advancements and more than 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 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, 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” McCullen said. “We took this ship to new heights in material readiness and operational excellence.”

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,” LeBron said. “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, USS Milius and USS Benfold.

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.

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