A Nigerian-American, Kelechi Ndukwe, on Thursday took over as the commanding officer of USS Halsey (DDG-97), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

Before he took over from DeVere J. Crooks who had commanded the ship since November 2019, he had been serving as the second-in-command.

As the first Nigerian-American to command the ship, the new role is the zenith of his 18-year career in the US navy which started with him working as an auxiliaries officer in 2003, a year after obtaining a master’s degree in national security and strategy studies from the US Naval War College.

Ndukwe said he is the oldest of his parent’s four children “but also the smallest”. He talked about how his father and mother migrated to the US from Nigeria in 1977 as “poor college students with hopes and dreams”.

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“And now their son is the captain of a US warship. In America, anything is possible. Thank you for your example of hard work and dedication and the foundation you have laid for your children,” he added.

To Delve who he took over from, he said the officer’s legacies “will live in Halsey for years to come” and, to his wife, he said, “you are still the greatest decision I have ever made”.

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Addressing the ship’s crew, Ndukwe said: “I am so honoured and excited to serve as your commanding officer. We will approach any day and mission with pride, professionalism and excellence. You are the life of this ship; this crew is the life of this ship. I thank you for your energy, effort and intensity every day.”

The USS Halsey (DDG 97) is not the first US navy ship Ndukwe will be commanding. From 2013 to 2015, the graduate of chemical engineering was the commanding officer for the USS Devastator (MCM 6), a minesweeper based in Bahrain.

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