Cmdr. Kelly Harrison was relieved by Cmdr. Benjamin Foster during a Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 “Chargers” change of command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk Dec. 5.
Retired Captain Gabriel E. Soltero (USN), a former H-60 Seahawk pilot who flew over 4,000 hours that include 40 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served as the guest speaker.
“Being a Skipper is hard. Being a good Skipper is even harder,” said Soltero. “Skipper Harrison demonstrated precisely the type of leadership needed at the time, performing admirably on a large stage and showing what the U.S. Navy – indeed, what the United States – is capable of. That’s something the entire HSC-26 team should be justifiably proud of.”
Foster relieved Harrison with the traditional exchange of salutes, assuming all duties and responsibilities as the commanding officer of HSC-26 in a ceremony attended by distinguished visitors, family, and HSC-26 crew.
“The Chargers are an elite team and represent the best of what America has to offer,” said Foster. “Their tireless effort and dedication to defend freedom every day is extraordinary. I am honored and excited to lead these fine men and women.”
During the ceremony, Harrison also received the Meritorious Service Medal for consistently demonstrating outstanding leadership, superb managerial skills, unmatched drive, and competency in the performance of her duties as commanding officer and executive officer at HSC-26 from May 15, 2017 to December 5, 2019.
Through Harrison’s exceptional ability to motivate and stimulate Sailors, HSC-26 was guided to unprecedented operational success, peak levels of readiness, and a genuine and incredibly positive command climate. HSC-26 completed more than 91,000 maintenance work orders encompassing 170,540 maintenance man-hours, enabling HSC-26 to reach and sustain a 100% operational sortie completion rate while flying 13,190 flight hours from May 2017 to December 2019. As a result of the command’s accomplishments and mission readiness efforts, the squadron was awarded the 2017 and 2018 Blue “M” Award for sustained medical readiness, as well as the 2017 and 2018 Retention Excellence Award.
“I’m going to take a page out of our JOPA’s book and tell you: the Chargers are the best squadron in the Navy, but also in the UNIVERSE,” said Harrison. “We have achieved a consistent reputation for greatness, but ultimately, the people are who get the job done. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve with each and every one of you because there really is no charger like a hard charger!”
HSC-26’s mission is to deploy expeditionary-armed helicopter detachments that execute naval special warfare, amphibious search and rescue, theater security cooperation, strike coordination and reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief and utility missions in support of the fleet and our national defense.
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