USS Winston S. Churchill Fleets Up

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Story Number: NNS140228-29Release Date: 2/28/2014 9:00:00 PM

By Ensign Jaylyn Hagen, USS Winston S. Churchill Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- From one proud Texan to another, command of the Arleigh Burke destroyer, USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), officially changed hands Feb. 28.

Past and present crew members, friends, and family attended the time-honored change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, to watch as Cmdr. Christine O'Connell of Houston, assumed command of the 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer from Cmdr. Chris Stone of Duncanville, Texas.

O'Connell attended Humble High School in Houston and earned her commission from the United States Naval Academy in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering. After serving as the ship's executive officer for the last 20 months, she "fleets up" and is expected to command the ship for approximately 18 months.

"I have had the privilege of working with the Sailors and families of USS Winston S. Churchill for the last year and a half," said O'Connell. "Few crews are more dedicated or more accomplished than these extraordinary men and women. I look forward to continuing our service together for the next 18 months as we perform our nation's tasking."

Stone began his 18-month tour as DDG 81 commander in August 2012, just after the ship departed for its most recent nine-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility. He led the ship through joint naval exercises and operations with Canada, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and made history by participating in the first U.S. Central Command joint counter-piracy exercise between the United States and the People's Liberation Army (Navy) of China.

"It has been the ultimate honor and privilege to serve as commanding officer of USS Winston S. Churchill," said Stone. "From senior to junior, the Sailors here support each other and face every challenge with teamwork and professionalism, excelling at every turn."

"This is by far the most professional and accomplished group of Sailors I have had the honor of calling my shipmates in 20 years of service."

Stone is moving to Washington D.C. to assume the position of Executive Assistant to Director Surface Warfare (OPNAV N96).

USS Winston S. Churchill is the first U.S. warship to be named in honor of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), best known for his courageous leadership as Britain's Prime Minister during World War II and the 16th warship to be named after a foreign national. The 13-year-old warship is in the middle of its basic phase, preparing to certify for its upcoming deployment in 2015.

For more news from Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/surflant/.

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