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New commanding officer takes helm of USS Arlington

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by JOHN BELLINO, Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class, U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy Capt. Eric Kellum relieved Capt. Christopher “Chowdah” Hill as commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) Aug. 6, during an underway change of command ceremony in the Atlantic Ocean.

“I could not be more excited and humbled to take command of the ‘best damn ship in the Navy,’” Kellum said during the ceremony. “The crew is motivated, professional, and the ship looks great and is firing on all cylinders.”

Kellum – a native of Beaumont, Texas – became the eighth commanding officer of the Arlington upon completion of the ceremony.

Kellum’s most recent previous assignment was a staff position with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. In previous years, he served as the executive officer and commanding officer of the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry.

Hill, a naval flight officer and native of Quincy, Mass., took command of the Arlington in April 2020. Under Hill’s leadership, the Arlington successfully completed “light off” assessment, became certified in various warfare areas, conducted multiple sea trials and completed basic-phase deployment training in record speed.

USS Arlington was the first ship on the East Coast since the outbreak of COVID-19 to conduct the “Final Battle Problem,” a two-day integrated training event covering every warfare area across the ship.

“Fellow warriors, the past 15 months have been a hell of a journey as we steam rolled through adversity, road blocks and ‘naysayers’ to get where we are today,” Hill said during his final farewell to the Arlington. “My challenge to you all is to become the best damn amphibious ship in history.”

Hill’s next assignment will be a staff position at Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

(On Sept. 9, Hill spoke at the annual banquet of the Arlington Historical Society, discussing his tenure with the ship and its connection to the local area. He expressed thanks to the people of Arlington for their support of the ship – “it energizes the crew,” he said.)

Commissioned April 6, 2013, Arlington is the eighth San Antonio-class ship and third U.S. Navy vessel named after Arlington County. She is also one of three ships named in honor of the communites most impacted by 9/11, alongside the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Somerset (LPD 25).

The Arlington is part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group. Shortly after the change-of-command ceremony, it was deployed to Haiti to assist with earthquake-relief efforts.

Mrs. Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of the late Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is U.S.S. Arlington’s sponsor.

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