By Lt. j.g. Sarah Claudy, USS Donald Cook Public Affairs
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) held a change of command ceremony while underway in the Bay of Cadiz, near the ship’s homeport of Rota, Spain, Dec. 14.
Cmdr. Matthew Curnen relieved Cmdr. Kelley Jones as Donald Cook’s Commanding Officer during the ceremony.
“I am so honored to have served as your captain,” said Jones as she formally addressed the crew for the last time. “I have seen this crew operate under the harshest conditions, beat all odds, and accomplish every mission with poise, determination, and ease. There is no better crew that easily flexes to serve our country, and in doing so, embodies our ship motto, ‘Faith without Fear!’”
Jones took command of Donald Cook on May 3, 2019, and has completed three Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E) patrols in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, supporting regional and national security interests and building relationships with partners and Allies. Operational highlights of Jones’ tour include NATO exercise BALTOPS 2020, presence operations in the Baltic and Black Seas, and exercise Joint Warrior, during which Donald Cook successfully fired a Standard Missile 2 against a maneuvering target. Jones also notably completed the Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) and a Material Inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).
Donald Cook earned her “blue nose” under Jones’ command by sailing above the Arctic Circle. The ship first sailed north of 66 degrees during her ninth FDNF-E patrol and made a historic port call in the Faroe Islands, becoming the first U.S. Navy destroyer to ever do so. During the ship’s 10th Patrol, Jones returned to the Artic to participate in a Surface Action Group with USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Porter (DDG 78), USNS Supply (T-AOE-6), and Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent (F78) in the Barents Sea.
Under Jones’ command, Donald Cook also became one of the first ships to successfully execute FDNF-E tasking under strict COVID mitigation measures. Jones perfected the Brief Stop for Fuel model, which allows deployed ships to refuel and restock in foreign ports with minimal contact. Jones inspirationally led the crew through a difficult and unprecedented time, both underway and in port Rota.
“I am grateful for Cmdr. Jones' steadfast leadership and perspective while serving as her Executive Officer,” said Curnen. “I am also grateful for the profound and extensive commitment she has shown to Donald Cook.”
Curnen, a native of Framingham, Massachusetts, is a member of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2002. His sea tours have been aboard USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Stout (DDG 55), and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Ashore, he taught Seamanship and Navigation at the U.S. Naval Academy and served as CVN Technical Assistant and Speechwriter to the Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion. He also completed a joint tour at the Joint Staff, J5, Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate.
“I feel truly humbled to accept the challenge of serving as your captain,” said Curnen, as he addressed the crew during the change of command ceremony. “I am excited to see what the future holds, and I know I could not ask for a better team to sail over the horizon with!”
Donald Cook is currently deployed on her eleventh patrol in the U.S. Sixth fleet area of operations, having left home port Rota, Spain in October. The first half of patrol brought Donald Cook to the Aegean Sea for Freedom of Navigation operations and the Black Sea for joint interoperability exercises.
Donald Cook is one of four U.S. Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and assigned to Commander, Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.
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.