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    USS STETHEM (DDG 63) Holds Change of Command Ceremony

    USS STETHEM (DDG 63) Holds Change of Command Ceremony

    Photo By Ensign Connor Cogdill | Commander John Kajmowicz speaks to the audience about his tenure as Commanding Officer...... read more read more



    Story by Ensign Connor Cogdill 

    USS Stethem (DDG-63)

    SAN DIEGO, CA (January 25, 2022) – Friends and family gathered together for a change of command ceremony at Naval Base San Diego where Commander Bryan Hart relieved Commander John Kajmowicz as Commanding Officer of USS Stethem (DDG 63). In attendance at the ceremony was Robert Stethem’s eldest brother, and retired Navy Seal, Ken Stethem.

    Cmdr. Kajmowicz served as Stethem’s Commanding Officer since September 2020 and thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity leading the Steelworkers. He shared with everyone present how commanding Robbie’s destroyer was the highlight of his Naval career and how much Robert Stethem’s story impacted him personally. He spoke about the profound significance of being a Steelworker and how Robbie’s legacy and spirt are remembered and personified by every single Steelworker. His follow-on assignment is as Reactor Officer in USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), currently homeported in Bremerton, Washington.

    In his final remarks, Cmdr. Kajmowicz reflected on his last 16 months as Commanding Officer, saying, “Steelworkers, being your Captain has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This crew is incredibly resilient and willing to take on any challenge that presents itself, always remaining steadfast and courageous regardless of any adversity that lies ahead.”

    Under Kajmowicz’s command, USS Stethem successfully completed a two year Extended Docking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA). He successfully returned Stethem back to sea by completing Contractor and Type Commander Sea Trials and leading her into Basic Phase training.

    His relief, Cmdr. Hart, hails from San Diego, CA and graduated from the United Sates Naval Academy in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics. He most recently served as the Executive Officer in USS Stethem from May 2020 to October 2021 and is grateful to return as a Steelworker and take command of Robbie’s destroyer.

    “I am excited to continue standing the watch alongside this seasoned crew, lead them safely and passionately, and am ready to execute the tasking that lies ahead. It remains my most distinct privilege to be a member of the team to breathe Rob’s spirit into the steel of this warship and carry forward his heroic and indelible legacy. We continue to honor his sacrifice with our service.” said Cmdr. Hart upon assuming command.

    Captain T.J. Zerr, Deputy Commander, Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center, served as the ceremony's guest speaker and presiding officer. Capt. Zerr shared some thoughts with the audience, “John instilled a sense of toughness, resilience, and esprit de corps in this crew. A crew that is steadfast and courageous, especially in times of challenge.” Zerr continued, saying, “Bryan, you’re the perfect fit to take care of the legacy of Stethem, the legacy personified by this ship and the Steelworkers. I know that you’re just the right person for the job. Remember, that in our business only the winners come home to their families. Prepare every day like the fight is coming to Stethem.”

    Ken Stethem addressed the crew during the ceremony, saying, “The best words I can use to describe my brother were written almost 250 years ago.” He continued with a quote from Thomas Paine, “I love the man that can smile in danger, gathers strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but to he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” He finished by saying, “It’s about character. Character counts, and Steelworkers, don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.”

    In conclusion, Ken Stethem presented a plaque delineating 108 unique character traits that the Stethem family believes Robbie embodied during his life to Cmdr. Kajmowicz. The gift was given in honor of everything Kajmowicz did for Robbie’s destroyer during his successful tour as Commanding Officer.

    USS Stethem is named after Steelworker 2nd Class Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem, and was commissioned on October 21, 1995, in Port Hueneme, California, as the thirteenth Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. Stethem was returning home from overseas duty when the plane he was on was hijacked by terrorists. Stethem was singled out as a U.S. Sailor and was beaten and tortured by terrorists to have their demands met. Throughout the ordeal, Stethem refused to aid the terrorists, and as a result of his heroism, Robert Stethem was shot and his body was thrown onto the tarmac.

    Robert Stethem was posthumously promoted to Steelworker Second Class (SW2) and ultimately to Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM) for making the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom as he laid down his life for the United States and his fellow Americans. USS Stethem continuously honors Robert’s sacrifice, proudly adopting the motto “Steadfast and Courageous” to highlight the exceptional heroism he demonstrated in June of 1985.

    The Steelworkers of USS Stethem continue to maintain a close relationship with both the Stethem family and Seabee community. Past and present Steelworkers are firmly committed to preserving the Stethem legacy of steadfast devotion to duty and courageous service. His spirit lives on and can be observed daily in the Steelworkers and in the ship that is Robbie’s destroyer.

    USS Stethem is currently homeported in San Diego, California at Naval Base San Diego undergoing Basic Phase training as a proud member of Destroyer Squadron 9.



    Date Taken: 01.25.2022
    Date Posted: 01.28.2022 18:45
    Story ID: 413660
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 680
    Downloads: 0