Saturday, May 30, 2015

Carter visits for ceremony on namesake submarine

BANGOR — Former president Jimmy Carter visited Kitsap County on Friday to participate in a change-of-command ceremony for his namesake submarine at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
The 39th president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner is the only U.S. president to graduate from the Naval Academy and the only one to qualify on submarines.
"What makes me so proud is to have been the only submariner to have served as commander in chief and also to have a submarine named after me," said Carter, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and served in the Navy until 1953.
"Of all the honors I have ever received, I've never had anything of greater honor than the chance to be the namesake of USS Jimmy Carter."
The 90-year-old Carter, one of six living people with ships named after them, has been actively interested in the ship over the course of its life, previously visiting during its christening and commissioning. He was joined Friday by wife Rosalynn, the ship's sponsor.
The last sitting president to visit Kitsap County was Bill Clinton, in 1993. He brought together leaders from Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries on Blake Island.
Cmdr. Melvin Smith relieved Cmdr. Brian Elkowitz as commanding officer of the Seawolf-class attack submarine. The one-of-a-kind vessel has all the capabilities of a Seawolf-class submarine, plus a 100-foot-long extension known as the multi-mission platform to test new generations of weapons and support Navy SEAL operations. It's the heir to the Navy's most decorated vessel, the USS Parche, which also was based at Bangor during its final years.
During Elkowitz's tour, which began in March 2012, USS Jimmy Carter completed five missions vital to national security and underwent a 17-month-long maintenance period.
"I could not have asked for a better ship, crew and supporting cast," Elkowitz said. "I am incredibly lucky to have been part of such an extremely talented team, a team that has accomplished so much for the Navy and our nation. We have done things that we can never tell others about, and must be content with the knowledge we carry within that what we did has made a difference. "
Jimmy Carter earned the Battle Efficiency Award, or Battle "E", for 2012 and 2013, and was honored with the Presidential Unit Commendation and the Navy Unit Commendation.
Elkowitz's next assignment will be to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Smith's previous post was with Navy Personnel Command, where he was the submarine assignments branch head and executive officer detailer.

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