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NEWS | Aug. 3, 2023

Task Force 64 holds Change of Command ceremony

By U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

Cmdr. Mike Dwan relieved Capt. Jonathan Lipps as commodore, commander, task force (CTF) 64 in a ceremony presided over by Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, Aug. 3, 2023.

The ceremony occurred onboard Naval Support Activity Naples, the headquarters of CTF 64. In addition to Vice Adm. Ishee, distinguished guests included Lt. Gen Antonio Aguto, commander, Security Assistance Group-Ukraine (SAG-U), Rear Adm. Paolo Fantoni, Chair for the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum, and various U.S. Sixth Fleet CTF commanders and directorate leaders.

At the ceremony, Lipps spoke about the success of CTF 64 and N34 in providing ballistic missile defense (BMD) and integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) for U.S. and Allied and partner forces throughout the region.

“Today, for my Sailors in both Task Force SIX FOUR and those under my authorities as the Fleet Fires Director, when I assumed command, we were still in a COVID world, but I chartered you with being prepared to integrate with the Alliance and fight tonight -- You answered all bells,” said Lipps. “I offer that YOU, the men and women of CTF 64 and N34 are the Sword and the Shield of both the Fleet and the Alliance during this time of existential crises. I leave with the knowledge that the Sword and the Shield remains not only sharp but also individually and collectively, you are prepared to hold the line.”

Under Lipps’ leadership, the Task Force led two iterations of exercise Formidable Shield, in 2021 and 2023. The premier live-fire IAMD exercise in Europe, Formidable Shield involves a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets, incorporating multiple Allied ships, aircraft, and ground forces working across battle spaces to deliver effects.

“Jon has been an integral component of developing the Formidable Shield exercises throughout the years, working with Allies, other services, and defense industry professionals to push the bounds of cooperation and capability, interoperability and interchangeability,” said Ishee. “For a career 30 years in the making, taking a team to sea for a challenging high-end exercise like Formidable Shield was a fitting finale for Jon to command, and one that he will remember fondly for years to come.”

While in command of CTF 64 and N34, Lipps was a critical enabler in establishing SAG-U, lending his decades of considerable experience to laying the framework for continued cooperation and coordination with regional Allies and partners in supporting Ukraine. He also oversaw the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System in Europe, which incorporates Aegis Ashore Romania in Deveselu and the future Aegis Ashore Poland in Redzikowo.

Like Lipps, Cmdr. Mike Dwan previously served as a commander of Aegis Ashore Romania. He assumes command of CTF 64 after recently completing a tour as the N11 Branch Head (TLAM/Surface Fires) at Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center in Fallon, Nevada. In his remarks, Dwan outlined his excitement to take the helm of Task Force 64.

“To the men and women who are the officers, chiefs, Sailors, and civilian staff under my command, your warfighting reputation precedes you. It is awesome to be joining this team and I am honored to lead you,” Dwan said. “Together with our Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, our allies and partner nations are dedicated to sustaining peace and readiness throughout the Alliance. I cannot wait to ‘take in all lines’ and be ‘haze grey and underway’ with you.”

In addition to a Change of Command, the day also incorporated Capt. Lipps’ retirement from the U.S. Navy after 30 years of service. While embarked aboard the Spanish flagship ESPS Blas de Lezo for Formidable Shield 23 during his final underway as a Navy officer, Lipps sent a message to his task group that emulates his appreciation for service and the opportunity to work with Allies and partners around the world.

“This is my final signal from our Flagship and after 30 years of naval service, my final signal from sea. I return to port with the confidence and knowledge that you are ready for war if called. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with you and our NATO Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines in realizing Deterrence and Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Area from the fjords of the Arctic Circle to the chasms of the North Atlantic,” the message read. “I thank you for the irreplaceable opportunity and trust to Sail in company with you and your Sailors one final time -- Godspeed and Good Hunting Captains!”

CTF 64 executes operational and tactical integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), including mission planning, execution, and operational and tactical control of assigned units for commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. CTF 64 also provides direct support for Aegis ballistic missile defense planning to commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and commander, Allied Air Command.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.