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New Task Force 70 commander sworn in aboard USS Ronald Reagan

Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, left, and Rear Adm. Karl Thomas salute the colors during the Task Force 70 change-of-command ceremony aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in the Philippine Sea, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (U.S. Navy)

The task force in charge of the Navy’s largest battle force has a new commander after a ceremony this week aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in the Philippine Sea.

On Wednesday, Rear Adm. Karl Thomas took command of Task Force 70, which includes the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and a stable of guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.

Thomas said he was “tremendously humbled” to take on the new position.

“I have three simple priorities that we are going to work for every day … Be prepared to fight and win, maximize every opportunity and take care of each other,” he said during the ceremony, according to a Navy statement. “If we do all those things right, we are going to win as a team.”

Thomas replaces Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, who will soon leave the Ronald Reagan’s homeport of Yokosuka for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to become director of maritime operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Dalton said it was his “great honor” to serve with the sailors of Task Force 70.

“At [forward-deployed naval forces] we deploy on the day we get underway. We are ambassadors every single day; world events guide our missions and tasking,” he told sailors, according to the Navy statement. “Your service matters every day and you have a responsibility that few sailors experience with defending our nation and building good relationships with our allies.”

Dalton first took on the role of Task Force 70 commander in September after his predecessor, Rear Adm. Charles Williams, was ousted following two fatal collisions of Task Force 70 guided-missile destroyers that killed 17 sailors in 2017.

The collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain were part of a string of mishaps involving the task force, including the November crash of a C-2A Greyhound assigned to the Ronald Reagan’s air wing that killed three and the grounding of the USS Antietam in Tokyo Bay in January 2017.

Thomas — an E-2C Hawkeye pilot — comes to Task Force 70 from Arlington, Va., where he served as director of the 21st Century Sailor office, the statement said. He was commissioned in 1986 through Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Naval ROTC program and has a master’s degree in information technology from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Thomas spent much of his early career deployed on the USS Carl Vinson before returning to the ship as commanding officer in September 2014 during Operation Inherent Resolve. Other career highlights include serving as executive officer and commanding officer for Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.


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