(NORFOLK, Va.) — Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer turned over the helm as commander of Military Sealift Command (MSC) to Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck during a change of command and retirement ceremony Friday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower at Naval Station Norfolk.
Hundreds of service members, family and distinguished guests attended the ceremony including U.S. Transportation Command Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, who served as presiding officer for the change of command ceremony, and U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. Daryl Caudle, who was presiding officer for the retirement ceremony.
Wettlaufer, the 28th commander of MSC, assumed the reins in June 2019, just months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, he stood up a crisis action and long-range planning teams to preserve the health of the force at sea and ashore, limiting spread of the virus and resulting in zero mission days lost.
At the president’s direction, Wettlaufer rapidly activated, deployed, kept safe and sustained USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy to deliver critical medical care to Americans in New York City and Los Angeles.
Sobeck takes command after serving as director of Strategic Plans, Policy, and Logistics at U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, where he oversaw the revision of the command strategy. His previous flag assignments also include director, 21st Century Sailor Office; commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3/Command Task Force (CTF) 36; and commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific/CTF 73.
“Because adversaries continue to challenge our peace, and the peace of our children, with the threat of armed conflict, we must continue to evolve to meet the demands of contested logistics and provide senior national leaders decision advantage. That’s power. That’s projection. That’s advantage. And I trust that Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck will accelerate this evolution,” said Van Ovost.
“I am extremely humbled and honored to be the 29th commander of Military Sealift Command,” said Sobeck. “After having served in the U.S. Transportation headquarters, I’ve developed an understanding and an appreciation of the importance of this command. More importantly, I developed a respect and admiration for the people who make this complex maritime enterprise work.
“Make no doubt, I am compassionate about our important mission and vow to build upon the many successes of (Wettlaufer) and his team, and continue to push forward to keep MSC the premier logistics organization in the world.”
MSC is the leading maritime logistics provider for the Department of Defense supporting Navy fleet commanders and USTRANSCOM, operating more than 130 vessels worldwide and managing a $4.8 billion annual budget with a workforce of 5,000 civil service and contract mariners, supported by 1,300 shore staff and 1,200 active duty and reserve military personnel.
Over the next decade, 12 new classes of ships will come online and MSC will see up to 20 new ships delivered to its fleet in the next five years, all with modernized systems. In addition, MSC is focused on delivering emerging capabilities such as new connectors, unmanned aerial resupply and expeditionary munitions reload to better support distribution of maritime logistics.
– U.S. Department of Defense