By Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Takada
SILVERDALE, Wash (NNS) -- Cmdr. Melvin Smith relieved Cmdr. Brian Elkowitz as commanding officer of the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) during a ceremony May 29 at Deterrent Park aboard Naval Base Kitsap - Bangor.
The ship's namesake, former President Jimmy Carter, and ship's sponsor, former first lady Rosalynn Carter also attended the event.
"What makes me so proud is to have been the only submariner to have served as commander in chief and also to have a submarine named after me," said Carter. "Of all the honors I have ever received, I've never had anything of greater honor than the chance to be the namesake of USS Jimmy Carter."
During Elkowitz's command tour, which began in March 2012, USS Jimmy Carter completed five missions vital to national security and underwent a 17 month-long docking phased maintenance availability period.
"I could not have asked for a better ship, crew and supporting cast," Elkowitz said. "I am incredibly lucky to have been part of such an extremely talented team - a team that has accomplished so much for the Navy and our nation. We have done things that we can never tell others about, and must be content with the knowledge we carry within that what we did has made a difference."
In addition, Jimmy Carter earned the Battle Efficiency Award, or Battle "E", for 2012 and 2013. The ship was honored with the U.S. Submarine Forces Pacific Retention Excellence Award for 2012 and 2014, as well as the crew being awarded the Presidential Unit Commendation and the Navy Unit Commendation.
Elkowitz's next assignment will be to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Smith reports to Jimmy Carter from Navy Personnel Command, where he was the submarine assignments branch head and executive officer detailer.
USS Jimmy Carter is the last and most advanced of the Seawolf-class attack submarines and is currently homeported at Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, Washington. The one-of-a-kind vessel has all the capabilities of a Seawolf-class submarine, plus a 100-foot-long, 2,500-ton hull extension known as the multi-mission platform to test new generations of weapons and support Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land forces) operations.
Former President Carter, one of six living people with ships named after them, has been actively interested in the ship over the course of its life. He previously visited during its christening and its commissioning.
President Carter remains the only U.S. president to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy as well as the only one to qualify on submarines. Graduating in 1946, he served in the Navy until 1953. He served as the governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975 and as the commander in chief from 1977 to 1981.