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In front of special guests and crewmembers, Cmdr. Timothy Clark relieved Cmdr. James Welsch as commanding officer of USS Cole (DDG 67) today during a change of command ceremony aboard Naval Station Norfolk.
Welsch took command of Cole in Feb. 2022. During his command, he led the Cole crew through a successful deployment with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. During his tenure, at the President’s request, the crew participated in numerous multi-national events and earned its second Battle Efficiency Award in two years.
During the traditional ceremony, Welsch took the opportunity to address the crew for the final time.
“In my entire career, I have never been part of an organization that has been so outstanding in so many areas,” said Welsch.
“At times in a ship’s lifecycle, the stars align and with a little bit of luck, you assemble a crew that is off the charts good. That is what you have right now. You have created a dynasty that is the envy of the waterfront and the model by which other destroyers are measured.”
Clark is a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia. He graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University and the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of San Diego/San Diego State University in 2005. There he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. He later earned a Masters of Education degree from Old Dominion University. He ascends to serve as the Cole leader completing his tour as executive officer.
"I am thrilled to be back and humbled to serve as your commanding officer,” said Clark. “Our crew is incredible and I can't wait to continue my journey with such a talented group of Sailors.”
A career surface warfare officer, Clark’s pervious assignments include USS Stout (DDG 55) as auxiliaries officer and navigator; USS Gravely (DDG 107) as chief engineer; and Destroyer Squadron 22 as the materials officer. Ashore, he served as a Training Liaison Officer at Afloat Training Group, Norfolk, and completed a four-year tour at Engineering Assessments, Atlantic, where he served as the destroyer class lead.
His personal decorations include the Navy Commendation Medal (four awards), Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), and various unit, campaign, and service awards.
Also known as the “Determined Warrior,” the ship is named for Sgt. Darrell S. Cole, U.S. Marine Corps, for his extraordinary heroism, unwavering loyalty to his country and his bravery in facing adversity without fear during the assault on Iwo Jima.
On Oct. 12, 2000, the ship was attacked by the al-Qaeda suicide bombers. The terrorists used a small vessel posing as a trash barge to close in on the ship before detonating an improvised explosive device. The blast tore a massive hole in the side of the ship. Seventeen Sailors lost their lives as heroes in the attack; 37 more were injured. The crew bravely fought for 96 consecutive hours and saved their ship.
After extensive repairs, the ship returned to the fleet and remains an impressive, important warship among the surface forces in the Atlantic.