Rear Adm. Randall Peck, front, assumes duties as commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, from Rear Adm. James Kirk during a change of command ceremony presided by Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, commander, U.S. Third Fleet, right, aboard amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22), June 9, 2023. ESG 3 provides regional and combatant commanders with an agile, tailorable, forward postured, and immediately employable force, capable of projecting expeditionary striking power in the maritime, littoral, and inland environs in support of U.S. national interests. U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Brandon Woods
Expeditionary Strike Group 3 Changes Command
by Lt. Cmdr. Lauren Spaziano.
Expeditionary Strike Group Three
Rear Adm. Randall Peck relieved Rear Adm. James Kirk as commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 during a change of command ceremony held on the flight deck aboard amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22), June 9.
Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, served as the guest speaker for the event.
“No single attribute defines the ideal commander, but I would submit these individuals must be of high moral character, compassionate, strategic thinkers, calm in the midst of chaos, and in possession of a steel ruthlessness. Jim’s time at Expeditionary Strike Group 3 exemplified these traits and did so with an unceasingly positive attitude,” said Kitchener. “Through all the multinational exercises, integrated training evolutions, space capsule recoveries, readiness obstacles, and personal challenges, he never failed to find the little pleasures which makes command and our service so great. Whether it was the opportunity to mentor junior officers or Sailors, the chance to swap sea stories with old friends, or watch with admiration as Expeditionary Strike Group 3 flawlessly executed difficult operations on a daily basis, Jim Kirk embraced all the small things that make command the most rewarding job any officer can hold.”
Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, commander, U.S. Third Fleet, served as presiding officer and presented Kirk with a Legion of Merit for his time as ESG 3.
In his role as ESG 3, Kirk prepared the amphibious units within C3F clemency for a multitude of integrated operations and amphibious ready group (ARG)/marine expeditionary unit (MEU) deployments worldwide. He reflected on his time in command during his remarks and thanked those who contributed to his success, both at ESG 3 and throughout his 33 years of naval service.
“I’ve been blessed to know and work alongside a talented and committed team. To the ESG 3 staff, thanks for all you’ve done to prepare and execute expeditionary operations, to deter our adversaries, assure our partners and allies, support civil authorities to relieve human suffering and save lives, and finally, when called upon, be ready to fight and win. For our partners up the road at Camp Pendleton and Miramar, and the ESG 3 commanders who I have had the privilege to serve alongside – you solved problems, supported your teams, upheld high standards, and operated with precision and discipline across the Western Pacific, through exercises and a host of other tasks large and small and, just as important – and many times more challenging – our Sailors and Marines doing the hard work of maintaining their ships and their craft, and readying our team for combat operations,” said Kirk. “To all the Sailors and Marines of ESG 3, you inspire me every day. I know you will provide the same energy, enthusiasm, and profssional expertise to Adm. Peck and one another as you have during my tenure. To the commodores, officers in charge, and subordinate commanders, thanks for being the stalwart leaders of our team.”
Kirk oversaw the successful initial deployment of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) to the U.S. 7th Fleet, deployment of the Makin Island ARG and 13th MEU to the U.S. 3rd and 7th Fleets, homeport shift for amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), inactivation of Amphibious Squadron 3, and recovery of the NASA Artemis I Orion space capsule. Under his leadership, the integrated ESG 3 team conducted operations with regional partners and allies during exercises and operations like Balikatan 2023, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises, Cobra Gold, and Northern Edge 2023.
“Jim, thank you for your personal investment in our turnover over the last few months. I’m honored and fortunate to assume command from you, because your experience and leadership advanced the professionalism and readiness of the staff and major subordinate elements,” said Peck. “I look forward to carrying on your efforts.”
Peck, a native of Houston, served his first and most recent flag officer assignment as the 69th President, Board of Inspection and Survey, where he was responsible for assessing the material readiness of the Fleet. He commissioned through the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991 and was designated a Naval Flight Officer. His command assignments have included Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112, USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Staff assignments include the Joint Staff (J-7)/Joint Advanced Warfighting Program at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and Experimentation Department Head at the Navy Warfare Development Command.
Kirk celebrated his upcoming retirement after 33 years of faithful naval service during the ceremony.
ESG 3 comprises three amphibious squadrons, 15 amphibious warships, and eight naval support elements including approximately 18,000 active-duty and reserve Sailors and Marines. As the deputy commander for amphibious and littoral warfare, U.S. 3rd Fleet, the ESG 3 commander also oversees Mine Countermeasures Group 3 and the 14 littoral combat ships and two subordinate divisions under Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1. ESG 3 is postured in support of U.S. 3rd Fleet as a globally responsive and scalable naval command element, capable of generating, deploying, and employing naval forces and formations for crisis and contingency response, forward presence, and major combat operations focusing on amphibious operations, humanitarian and disaster relief and support to defense civil authorities, and expeditionary logistics.
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