DARWIN, Australia –
Cmdr. Keith Tate, 21st commanding officer of the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), turned over command to Cmdr. Dirk Sonnenberg in a ceremony aboard Ashland, May 11.
The ceremony was held on the ship’s flight deck, with Capt. Greg Baker, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, presiding.
Highlights from Tate’s time on Ashland included major exercises and operations such as Noble Tempest (NT) 21 and Balikatan (BK) 22, as well as bilateral cooperative deployments with the Japan Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces, Royal Brunei Navy, and the Royal Palau Navy. During the ceremony, Tate was also commissioned a Kentucky Colonel, the highest honor bestowed by the governor of Kentucky for noteworthy achievements in the service of the state.
In preparation for BK22, Ashland visited Subic Bay, Philippines, for the first time in Ashland’s history, further enhancing relations between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Navy. Upon completion, Tate led Ashland on a four-week transit through the South China Sea and surrounding operating area to Darwin, Australia.
“I have loved every day being here with all of you, both as XO and especially in command. Even the hard days had their value,” said Tate, addressing the ship’s crew. “This ship and all of you have been my second family and because you are an extension of my family I will miss you more than you know. I am confident Ashland is poised to shock the fleet as we always do, not by merely limping across the finish line, but rather by sailing confidently home in the best material condition we’ve been in, in years.”
Sonnenberg previously served as the ship’s executive officer since February 2021.
“Ashland has a phenomenal spirit of self-sufficiency that’s both the hallmark of her crew and the prime mover behind her reputation as an amphibious work horse,” said Sonnenberg. “I’m excited to empower the crew to keep Ashland ready to answer all tasking! It’s up to this crew to prove to the Navy that Ashland continues to provide significant life and value to the fleet, from now until at least 2038!”
Sonnenberg received his commission in 2004 from the University of Arizona Navy ROTC program in Tucson, Arizona. He has served at sea aboard USS New York (LPD 21), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Shiloh (CG 67). He attended Surface Mine Warfare Development Center’s inaugural Amphibious Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, becoming one of the first amphibious warfare WTIs.
Tate will continue his commission as the chief staff officer to Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8.
Ashland, part of the America Amphibious Ready Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.