Capt. William C. Hamilton became the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Enterprise in a shipboard ceremony Aug. 17. The Enterprise is the oldest active warship and the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It will celebrate 50 years of service Nov. 25. (Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Gross / Navy via the A)
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The Navy's oldest carrier, the Enterprise, welcomed its final commanding officer Wednesday during a change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
Capt. William Hamilton relieved Capt. Dee Mewbourne to become the carrier's third commanding officer of 2011, a circumstance prompted by the early January firing of Capt. Owen Honors over the infamous "XO Movie Night" videos produced while Honors was the carrier's executive officer from 2005 to 2007.
Mewbourne, chief of staff for Navy Cyber Command when he was tapped to take over as the carrier's CO, served a little more than eight months in command of Enterprise, far short of a normal command tour. But he'd already enjoyed a full tour as commanding officer of the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower from 2007 to 2010, so the Navy decided to make the switch now, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic said.
"Since Capt. Mewbourne has already completed his command tour, it was decided to bring in Capt. Hamilton in now so he could work the ship up through its final deployment and then inactivation," said the AIRLANT spokesman, Cmdr. Phil Rosi.
Enterprise will celebrate its 50th birthday Nov. 25 and launch its 22nd and final overseas deployment next year before being decommissioned in the fall of 2012, ending a long, storied ride.
Despite January's no-notice command upheaval, Enterprise had by all accounts a highly successful deployment. Operating in the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, Enterprise launched more than 1,450 combat sorties in support of the war in Afghanistan and Operation New Dawn in Iraq, as well as joining strike group ships in counter-piracy and counter-terrorism missions.
Mewbourne's performance was recognized Wednesday with the Legion of Merit, pinned on by Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, who presided over the ceremony. Mewbourne quickly shared the credit.
"I will wear [this award] proudly as a visible reminder of the outstanding efforts of the brave men and women who served selflessly, ensuring that Enterprise was always ready on arrival," he told the gathering.
Mewbourne will transfer to the staff of Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Hamilton, a veteran Super Hornet pilot, will now have the opportunity to complete a full training cycle aboard the carrier, oversee the year-long tribute to the carrier's half-century of service and drive Enterprise during what presumably will be the ship's final deployment.
"We will continue to uphold the standards that have made this ship and its crew great," a Navy press release quoted Hamilton as saying during the ceremony. "We will do everything in our power to ensure that USS Enterprise remains ready for tasking in response to our nation's needs. We will keep Big ‘E' ready on arrival."