NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain –
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) held a change of command ceremony on the pier at Naval Station Rota, Spain, Oct. 8, 2021.
Cmdr. Christopher Petro relieved Cmdr. Thomas Ralston as Porter’s commanding officer during the ceremony, which was presided over by Capt. Kyle Gantt, commodore, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 65.
“As my time in command of Porter comes to a close, it is hard to put into words the appreciation and the gratitude I have for everyone gathered here today,” said Ralston “Command-at-sea is the pinnacle of a naval officer’s career, and I could not have asked for a better team to make this command truly special.I had the chance to command a ship with a real mission, and I had the privilege of doing it in the Navy’s best homeport and the place that I was born.”
Ralston, a native of Rota, Spain, has been in command of Porter since Aug. 12, 2020, leading Porter and her crew on two multi-mission forward-deployed naval forces patrols throughout U.S. Sixth Fleet, area of operations in support of regional and national security interests. During his tenure, Ralston served as the commander of Surface Action Group consisting of the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO-203) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), after entering the Black Sea.
“Porter and her crew have performed exceptionally as part of the FDNF-E team,” said Petro, who served as executive officer onboard Porter from March 2020 - August 2021. “I look forward, once again, to being a part of their continued success.”
Ralston is a graduate of Officer Candidate School. His sea tours consisted of: auxiliaries officer aboard USS Chosin (CG 65), navigator aboard USS Reuben James (FFG 57), chief engineer aboard USS Barry (DDG 52), and as flag secretary to commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine embarked aboard USS Ronald Regan (CVN 76).
Petro enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1993, and served as a Machinist’s Mate on the USS Asheville (SSN 758) in San Diego, Calif. from 1994 to 1999. In 1999, he was selected into the Seaman to Admiral Program, and is a graduate of Officer Candidate School.
Petro was selected for Early Command in 2013 and has served as Executive Officer of MCM Crew Dominant on USS Gladiator (MCM 11) and USS Champion (MCM 4), Commanding Officer of MCM Crew Dominant on USS Champion (MCM 4). He served as Commanding Officer of USS Chosin (CG 65) and USS Cape St. George (CG 71).
Porter is currently on her 10th patrol in the U.S. Sixth fleet area of operations, which began in July 2021. Porter recently completed Fleet Operational Sea Training with the Royal Navy. FOST was a three-week long training and NATO certifying event which involved all facets of the ship including advanced warfighting tactics, firing all weapons systems during gunnery exercises as well as seamanship and maneuvering exercises. The warfighting environments progressed from a single threat to a multi-threat scenario, each week including a weekly war scenario.
Forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, surface combatants, like Porter, from Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60, execute a myriad of operations from as far North as the Norwegian Sea and south to the Cape of Good Hope including Ballistic Missile Defense, Sea Lines of Communication enforcement, Maritime Interdiction Operations, direct support to NATO combined and Joint operations and exercises, Counter-terrorism operations, Counter-piracy operations, Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership operations, whole of government Africa Partnership Station deployments and Theater Security Cooperation activities both in port and underway.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.