SAN DIEGO (Dec. 8, 2017) – Rear Adm. Cedric E. Pringle relieved Rear Adm. Cathal S. O’Connor as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 during a change of command ceremony held on amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Dec. 8.

O’Connor assumed command of ESG-3 in January 2017, and upon his departure will be assigned as chief of staff, J-5, Joint Staff, in Washington D.C.

Vice Adm. John D. Alexander, Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, served as the guest speaker for the event. Alexander presented O’Connor with a Legion of Merit as an end of tour award, recognizing him for his exceptional service to the U.S. Navy.

“Cat has taken great pride in ensuring that the training of our Sailors and Marines is second-to-none,” said Alexander. “We owe them everything they need to fight and win and that is a tremendous responsibility. We can’t predict what awaits them over the horizon but we can know with great certainty that they will be ready to face any threat, because Cat wouldn’t let them be out there if they weren’t.”

As Commander, ESG-3, O’Connor prepared amphibious units for operations within U.S. 3rd Fleet and for Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployments worldwide. 

He oversaw the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) ARG’s successful deployment to 5th and 7th fleets. Following this, he was responsible for the execution of USS America (LHA 6)/15th MEU’s pre-deployment training cycle, on-time deployment, and demonstrated operational readiness to 5th, 6th, and 7th fleets. 

As Commander, Amphibious Task Force (ATF) during Exercise Dawn Blitz 2017, he seamlessly integrated the first ARG F-35B, Joint Strike Fighter employment and first amphibious ship High Mobility Artillery Rocket System operational launch at sea. Implementing advanced warfighting concepts, he exercised Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations for the first time in a live event. 

O’Connor’s initiatives during his tenure in command to improve warfighting readiness changed the way future strike groups will train and operate, which will deliver the most capable ships to geographic combatant commanders. 

He reflected on his time as commander, while thanking his peers and the men and women of the ESG-3.

“Thank you for the privilege of leading this strike group,” said O’Connor. “It was a humbling honor. To have so many Sailors and Marines charging in the same direction has been inspiring. This team of 14,000 Sailors and Marines looked at how our amphibious forces are deployed and assessed the risks. We gave the five commodores a vision of how to minimize that risk and then supported them as they pursued solutions. Any success we have had as a command is the commodores’, the captains they command, and the ESG-3 staff’s, and theirs alone.”

Pringle’s most recent assignment was as Deputy Director, Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South.

At sea, he previously commanded USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). During this tour, he participated in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in response to Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. He also commanded the Navy’s first hybrid propulsion drive ship, USS Makin Island (LHD 8). During his tenure there, Makin Island completed its maiden deployment and achieved numerous successes, including earning the Battle “E” Award, the Retention Excellence Award, Afloat and Aviation Operational Safety Awards and the President’s Volunteer Service Award for community outreach.

“I am blessed and honored to command the men and women of ESG-3,” said Pringle. “Admiral O’Connor and his staff have prepared our blue/green team to execute the full range of military operations whenever and wherever needed. Our nation has depended on this strike group time after time and I am humbled to continue that legacy.”

ESG-3 comprises three amphibious squadrons, eight naval support elements and 14 amphibious warships comprised of nearly 14,000 active-duty and reserve Sailors and Marines. The mission of ESG-3 is to serve as the command element for Marine expeditionary-brigade level expeditionary operations as commander of an amphibious task force.

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Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse Monford (SW/AW)