By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
The Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) held a change of command ceremony in Gaeta, Italy, Aug. 31, 2021.
Capt. David “Crusty” Pollard was relieved by Capt. Daniel Prochazka as the commanding officer of Mount Whitney. Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, presided over the ceremony and delivered remarks about Pollard’s time aboard the Mount Whitney.
“Crusty is a proven leader who cares about his people – resulting in a 45 percent promotion rate across the ship, and the ship earning the Golden Anchor Award in 2020 for excellence in retention,” said Black. “Additionally, his team received the first ever Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Cyber and Safety Excellence Award for best practices in 2020.”
During Pollard’s tenure as commanding officer, Mount Whitney was the first U.S. ship deemed a “Clean Ship” to deploy in the COVID environment, serving as the flagship for Sixth Fleet and Striking and Support Forces NATO during BALTOPS 2020. Mount Whitney also supported other exercises including Steadfast Defender 2021 and Large Scale Exercise 2021. The team also completed a $22 million regular overhaul and dry-docking maintenance availability period where it synchronized coordination efforts with 14 organizations in Genoa, Italy.
“Through his leadership, the team collaborated with the shipyard maintenance team and contractors, resulting in a completion of repairs and upgrades ahead of schedule,” said Black. “In the world of shipyard maintenance, this is not a common occurrence.”
Black presented Pollard with a Legion of Merit for his exceptional performance while serving as the commanding officer for Mount Whitney.
During his remarks, Pollard praised his team and spoke about the major milestones the Mount Whitney was able to accomplish during his tour as the commanding officer.
“My time as Commanding Officer of the mighty USS Mount Whitney is coming to an end. Commanding a 50+ year old warship has been an ultimate honor, supporting the Commanders of Sixth Fleet, Second Fleet, Fifth Fleet, Striking and Supporting Forces NATO, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Battalion across the largest exercises in Europe from the High North to the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea to the Adriatic Sea to the waters off of Africa,” said Capt. Pollard.
Pollard also reflected on his time aboard and said he was proud to serve with such a dedicated crew.
“TEAM 20 is absolutely amazing,” said Pollard, whose next tour will be commanding the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77). “TEAM 20 Sailors and Civilian Mariners are warriors and teachers who lead forward deployed as ambassadors for the United States Navy and the United States of America! TEAM 20 ensured peace, stability, security, and prosperity. I am so proud of them!”
Prochazka will lead Mount Whitney’s crew through multiple shipboard certifications and into a challenging 2021 fall schedule.
“I am honored to join TEAM 20,” said Prochazka, who just finished completing a tour as the Executive Officer aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). “These Sailors and Civilian Mariners who sit on the tip of the spear reflect everything we strive to be: warriors, teachers, leaders and ambassadors. This team will continue to support Navy, Marine and NATO Commanders with professionalism and energy. I look forward to being part of the astounding things this team will accomplish.”
USS Mount Whitney, forward-deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners.
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.