USS Ronald Reagan Welcomes New Commanding Officer

Ronald Reagan conducts rudder checks in October 2007, as part of the ship's periodic inspection.

The USS Ronald Reagan welcomed its new commanding officer during a ceremony at sea on September 10, 2018. Captain Patrick “Fin” Hannifin took command of the only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the US fleet from Captain Michael “Buzz” Donnelly. Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of Task Force 70, led the ceremony in the ship’s hangar bay.

Hannifin previously commanded the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock ship based out of Norfolk, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has his master’s degree in international relations from the University of San Diego. He has served as a pilot and was selected to attend the Air Force’s Test Pilot School.

The U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24).
The U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24).

Donnelly is leaving the Yokosuka-based Ronald Reagan to serve in the 7th Fleet’s leadership. His precise role is still being determined. He had commanded the Ronald Reagan since 2016.

The Ronald Reagan deployed in August to patrol the Indo-Pacific region. According to a press report from the South Korean news agency “News 1,” the carrier will dock in Jeju, South Korea in October. US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has said that the US will participate in joint drills with South Korea following North Korea’s lack of progress in their promised denuclearization program.

USS Ronald Reagan returning to San Diego Bay after a deployment, 2011. By Philkon CC BY-SA 3.0
USS Ronald Reagan returning to San Diego Bay after a deployment, 2011. By Philkon CC BY-SA 3.0

According to News 1, the ship will participate in the 2018 Republic of Korea international naval review from October 10th to the 14th. The US is considering sending three or four other warships to Korea to participate along with the Ronald Reagan.

The nuclear-powered carrier is capable of transporting dozens of aircraft including F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-6B Prowlers and E-2C Hawkeyes.

The last time the Ronald Reagan was in South Korea was in October 2017 after participating in joint exercises around the Korean peninsula.

Ronald Reagan is aided by harbor tugs as it enters Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a port visit on 28 June 2006.
Ronald Reagan is aided by harbor tugs as it enters Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a port visit on 28 June 2006.

The USS Ronald Reagan is the ninth Nimitz-class warship constructed at Northrop Grumman’s Newport News shipyard in Virginia. Construction began with the laying of the keel on February 12, 1998. Nancy Reagan christened the ship on March 4, 2001, and the ship was commissioned on July 12, 2003.

The ship left Virginia on May 27, 2004, to circumnavigate South America to dock in its homeport of San Diego.

Sailors aboard Ronald Reagan man the rails as the supercarrier arrives at her new homeport in San Diego, California, on 23 July 2004.
Sailors aboard Ronald Reagan man the rails as the supercarrier arrives at her new homeport in San Diego, California, on 23 July 2004.

On January 4, 2006, the Ronald Reagan left San Diego on its first deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism, which included support for Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. By the conclusion of military operations, over 6,100 sorties had been launched by the Carrier Air Wing 14 from the deck of the Ronald Reagan.

Among other notable deployments, the Ronald Reagan served as a floating platform for refueling the Japanese Self Defense Force and other helicopters during the rescue and recovery efforts following the 9.0 earthquake that left thousands of Japanese dead. It has been serving as the Forward Deployed Naval Force replacement for the USS George Washington in Yokosuka since 2015.

Ronald Reagan makes final preparations to provide fuel to the Royal Australian Navy Frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) during a Fueling At Sea (FAS) evolution, 21 April 2006
Ronald Reagan makes final preparations to provide fuel to the Royal Australian Navy Frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) during a Fueling At Sea (FAS) evolution, 21 April 2006

The carrier is named after the 40th president of the United States, who served in that office from 1981 until 1989. Reagan previously worked as an actor and a union leader. He was elected to be the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975.

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While serving as president, he famously called on the Soviet General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin Wall. The wall actually did come down just ten months after he left office. He also reached an agreement with the Soviet Union that reduced both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.