A Port Jefferson native has taken the helm of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered Navy aircraft carrier that has been deployed to American-led actions in the waters off Iraq, Iran and Somalia.
Capt. Kyle Higgins, 49, of Norfolk, Virginia, relieved Capt. Paul Spedero Jr. as commanding officer of the vessel known as "Ike" during a change-of-command ceremony Thursday in Portsmouth, Virginia, according to a Navy news release.
Spedero will now serve as executive assistant to Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Higgins, a 1990 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, most recently served as director of fleet readiness for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
During the ceremony, Higgins said he would work to complete Spedero's work “to deliver the most combat-capable carrier.”
Efforts to reach Higgins on Friday were not successful.
Designated as a Naval flight officer in 1992, Higgins has served on assignments on both coasts and has flown combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom and commanded reconstruction teams in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.
Higgins also served as commanding officer of the Electronic Attack Squadron known as the “Yellow Jackets,” as executive officer of USS John C. Stennis Navy supercarrier, and as commanding officer of USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Seventh Fleet.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, named after the nation's 34th president, was commissioned in 1977 as the second ship in the Nimitz class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
It took part in "Operation Eagle Claw" during the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, in the Persian Gulf during the first Iraq War in 1990 and more recently in support of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.