Capt. Joseph Kuzmick receives the Legion of Merit from Rear Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin during a change of command ceremony in hangar bay two aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis is currently moored in homeport of Bremerton, Wash. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/Released)

Story by MC3 Dugan Flynn

Capt. Ronald Reis relieved Capt. Joseph Kuzmick as the commanding officer of USS John C. Stennis (CVN74) in a change of command ceremony in hangar bay two Friday.

Reis, a graduate of University of California, Davis, received his commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School and became an aviator in 1987. He is reporting to Stennis after successfully commanding USS Nassau (LHA 4), and said he is honored to be a part of Stennis’ crew.

“Today I join a crew and a ship that is squarely between the buoys, sailing true and proud, headed for open ocean,” said Reis. “Captain Kuzmick, you will be sorely missed by the men and women of this fine warship and the greater Bremerton community.”

Rear Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, Carrier Strike Group Three commander, presided over the ceremony and commended Kuzmick’s efforts and the progress made during Stennis Bids Farewell to CO his time aboard Stennis as captain.

“Leadership does not command excellence, leadership builds excellence,” said Aucoin. “That is what Captain Kuzmick has been doing these past two and a half years.”

During Capt. Kuzmick’s command, Stennis launched and recovered over 14,000 aircraft and qualified 115 new pilots with zero mishaps. The ship deployed in 2009 to the Western Pacific, and participated in a host of additional underways in support of carrier qualifications. Under his command, Stennis served as the centerpiece for the Centennial of Naval Aviation, held at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. on February 12. Stennis also received the 2010 Edward F. Ney award for the best food service in the fleet, and two consecutive retention excellence awards, a first for Pacific Northwest carriers. Most recently, Stennis completed Tailored Ship’s Training Availability/Final Evaluation Problem and the Congress mandated Board of Inspection and Survey, back to back successfully.

“What has been truly and absolutely captivating to me is how well this crew responded to virtually every challenge,” said Kuzmick. “There’s been challenges, but they executed everything with almost no white space in the schedule. The demand for aircraft carriers by our combatant commanders around the world is absolutely relentless. I want to promise you that this crew stands ready to continue this successful tradition.”

Kuzmick will report to Commander Navy Region Northwest.