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USS Jimmy Carter gets a new boss

Photo by Ray Narimatsu
Capt. Robert Kelso, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) commanding officer, walks through the side boys one last time after turning over leadership to Cmdr. David Honabach June 8.

In traditional Northwest fashion, the skies were overcast as family, friends, special guests and the crew of USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) witnessed Capt. Robert Kelso turn over leadership to Cmdr. David Honabach June 8 on Naval Base Kitsap’s Delta Pier.

The guest speaker for the event was retired Rear Adm. Jerry Ellis, director, Deep Sea Submergence branch.

The ceremony began with Ellis discussing how Jimmy Carter was selected as the third and final ship of the Seawolf class to serve as the test bed for future submarine and undersea warfare experimentation. The Navy gained the necessary funding support from Congress to construct a 110-foot addition into the hull of Jimmy Carter to serve as the multi-mission project in support of the Defense Science Board and National Defense Industrial Association study recommendations for exploring future undersea warfare concepts.

“The truly amazing and remarkable part of Jimmy Carter’s story is its rapid development from power point concept, to in the water in about five years,” said Ellis. “On schedule and on budget, it’s almost unheard of in the complex modern defense acquisition world,” he said.

Under Kelso’s leadership, the crew of the Jimmy Carter accomplished the following tasks:

1) Sea Trials—Nov, 13, 2004

2) Delivered to the U.S. Navy—Dec. 22, 2004

3) Commissioned—Feb. 19, 2005

4) And transit in October 2005 to her new home port at Naval Base Kitsap.

Ellis commended Kelso for doing an extraordinarily great job as the subs first commanding officer.

“Capt. Kelso met every challenge presented to him with his typical quiet, calculating and pragmatic approach to problem solving,” said Ellis. “Soft spoken, his crew members tell me he rarely yells at people. He may periodically say, ‘Come on now ... You know better than that’ when instructing subordinates in procedural matters. During the ship’s sea trials following new construction, I heard that he expressed a typical low key comment by summarizing the trials’ completion with ‘That’s the fastest and deepest I’ve ever been...thanks,’” he said.

After boasting about the ship and its boss, Ellis concluded with one last Bravo Zulu for Kelso before he turned over leadership to Honabach.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your inspirational leadership, tireless efforts in delivering this great ship to our Navy, and your unswerving devotion to our Navy’s strategic objectives,” said Ellis. “I expect great things in your future because your impressive track record of success only points to your unlimited potential in service to the Navy and the nation.”

Then it was time for Kelso to address the audience and thank his crew for a job well done.

“As you look at Jimmy Carter pierside, she looks like a typical SSN, although a little bigger; she is much more,” he said. “Not only does she have all the combat capability, speed and stealth of a Seawolf class submarine, but with the multi-mission platform, she adds tremendous advances in tactical ocean surveillance, mine reconnaissance and special operations warfare.”

“The last year has focused on testing the equipment and developing the procedures to operate the most complex system ever designed and built into a submarine,” said Kelso.

“Nothing about this ship and its aggressive construction has been easy, but this crew, through their hard work, dedication and enormous talent has met and overcome the many technical and operational challenges,” he said.

“I leave you with great admiration and respect. The satisfaction I have received from leading you and watching you do your job so well has made it worthwhile,” Kelso said.

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