Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 held a change of command ceremony aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) April 5. Rear Adm. Michelle Howard relieved Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, ESG 2's commander since November 2007.
In addition to relieving McKnight as the ESG 2 commander, Howard assumed command of several U.S. 5th Fleet task forces, including Combined Task Force (CTF) 51 and 59, as well as CTF 151, an international maritime coalition created to disrupt, deter and thwart piracy.
"I'm very fortunate to follow behind Admiral McKnight," said Howard. "He and the staff have done a terrific job in standing up CTF 151. His leadership will be missed on the waterfront."
As commander of ESG 2, McKnight was responsible for all of the amphibious assets based on the U.S. East Coast and upon deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet's Area of Operations in January 2009, he assumed command of CTF 151.
McKnight said commanding ESG 2 has been an incredible experience and one he will never forget. "This has definitely been one of the more exciting assignments of my career," he said. "Not only did I never think I'd be sailing the ocean chasing pirates, I certainly never thought I'd be doing it alongside the navies of so many different countries, especially Russia and China."
As the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, Howard said she understands the magnitude of bridging cultural and international gaps.
"ESG 2 has executed the three missions they're responsible for without missing a beat," she said. "My top priority right now is to deter piracy here in the Gulf of Aden. I want to continue the extensive international coordination Admiral McKnight started. That's the true key to defeating piracy.
"Piracy is a problem that affects all maritime nations and requires an international solution. I'm looking forward to working with naval professionals from around the world on this vital mission."
CTF 151 is a multinational task force established to conduct counterpiracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the Combined Maritime Forces Area of Responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.
Howard previously served as senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy.