NORFOLK, Va. – A 1982 graduate of Graham High School has been appointed to command Expeditionary Strike Group 2 for the United States Navy.
Rear Adm. John B. “Brad” Skillman relieved Rear Adm. Jeff Hughes as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, during a change of command ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) on March 9.
Skillman received a Congressional appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis following his graduation from Graham.
When the family resided in western Champaign County, Skillman’s father worked at Drackett in Urbana before transferring to Cincinnati after Skillman’s graduation. Skillman’s sister and fellow Graham alum Karen is married to 1983 Graham graduate and U.S. Navy Ret. Commander Robert Douglass, who also received an appointment to the Naval Academy after high school graduation and ultimately served as a commander for the USS Albuquerque, a nuclear submarine. In retirement, the Douglasses currently reside in Saint Michaels, Maryland, where Robert now works in the private sector. The Douglasses have two sons, one of whom recently joined the Navy at the rank of Ensign.
Skillman and his wife Jacey have a daughter named Kelsey who works at Apple, a son named Sam who is a 2016 West Point graduate stationed in Poland and a son Peter, who is a high school sophomore.
Skillman has spent the past 18 months in Oslo, Norway, attached to NATO, where he visited many European countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, France and Spain, among others.
Adm. Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, the guest speaker and presiding officer during the March 9 change of command ceremony, offered words for both the oncoming and departing officers as they both move into newly-appointed positions.
“Keep those effective and efficient teams whole. Ensure you are training the next generation to be as effective as you are. Remember, your success resides within those teams. Well done to all of you,” said Davidson.
In a speech by Skillman during the ceremony, he displayed passion about the opportunity to take command of more than 12,000 Sailors and Marines stationed aboard 13 ships and 10 deployable commands.
“This strike group is extraordinary with the Sailors and Marines within 23 subordinate commands, truly more than the sum of its parts,” said Skillman. “It contains not only the ships and squadrons, but the naval beach group with its assault craft units, both landing craft air cushion and landing craft utility and beach masters, tactical aircraft control squadrons and the assault construction battalion.”
Skillman reported from NATO Joint Warfare Center as deputy commander and chief of staff.
As Hughes turned over Command of ESG-2, he talked about the successes that the Navy has every day and the impact it makes on the United States.
“You have and will continue to make your mark on the stories and successful history of the United States Navy,” said Hughes. “I’m just honored and thankful that I was able to be a part of such greatness.”
During the Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September and October in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, Hughes served as Commander, Task Force 189, embarked aboard Kearsarge. As Commander, Task Force 189, Hughes led 4,500 Sailors and Marines representing over 30 commands embarked on Kearsarge, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), the dock-landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), territory government, local officials in Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to those affected by the hurricanes.
Hughes will continue his service as Commander, Navy Personnel Command and Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel.
For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dana D. Legg contributed information for use in this story on behalf of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Public Affairs from the March 9 ceremony.