Capt James Midkiff relieved Capt. Dana Gordon as commanding officer of USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) on June 7 during a ceremony on board the ship. Guest speaker for the event was Rear Adm. Earl Gay.
Midkiff is a native of Mount Airy, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Navy in 1983, and eventually received his Commission and Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in May 1990. He is also a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., where he obtained his Master's degree in National Security Affairs, the Joint Forces Staff College, where he completed all requirements as a Joint Service Officer and the Navy Senior Leadership Seminar.
Midkiff's sea assignments include Electrician, USS Saipan (LHA 2); Gunnery Officer and Boilers Officer in USS Josephus Daniels (CG 27); two Engineer Officer tours, first in USS Arthur W. Radford (DD 968) and then in USS San Jacinto (CG 56); Assistant Surface Operations Officer/Antiterrorism Officer on the Commander, Carrier Group Two staff embarked in USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); and Operations and Plans Officer on the Commander, Carrier Strike Group Twelve staff embarked in USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and then assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). He commanded MHC Crew Prestige, which was embarked in USS Heron (MHC 52), USS Raven (MHC 61), and USS Falcon (MHC 59) and then USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79).
Shore assignments include a Joint tour on the Joint Staff in Washington DC, as an antiterrorism action officer in the Operations Directorate; as a post department head detailer at the Naval Personnel Command in Millington, TN; and as the Surface Navy Requirements and Capabilities Officer on the staff of Commander, United States Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, VA.
A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Gordon graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1989, was commissioned through the school's NROTC program and later designated a Naval Aviator in October 1991.
In 1992, he completed flight training in the SH-60B Seahawk and has since accumulated over 3,500 total flight hours, with over 3,250 coming in the SH-60B, making numerous deployments onboard CRUDES ships while serving multiple tours with HSL-40, HSL-42 and HSL-44.
From 2006 through 2009, he was Executive Officer and then assumed the title of WARRIOR ONE as the 20th Commanding Officer of the HSL-42 Proud Warriors. Under his leadership, the Proud Warriors won three consecutive Battle Efficiency Awards, the 2008 HSMWINGLANT Sikorsky Maintenance Golden Wrench Award, and the Secretary of the Navy's Aviation Safety Award as one of the Navy's safest operational fleet Squadrons. During his Command tour, CAPT Gordon was also peer-selected by his fellow Commanding Officers as the 2008 Naval Air Forces and Navy and Marine Association's Senior Leadership award winners for COMHSMWINGLANT.
Other assignments have included tours at the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn., with Commander Naval Air Forces in San Diego, CA, and on the Joint Staff, J-8, in the Pentagon. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Embry-Riddle University, completed his JPME Phase I and II from the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, AL and the Joint and Combined Warfighting School in Norfolk, VA and has also completed in residence coursework at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, MA
In 2012, CAPT Gordon completed a tour as an Aide to Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus, in July 2013 began his duties as Executive Officer and in December 2014, became the 10th Commanding Officer of USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7). During his tour onboard CAPT Gordon has led IWO JIMA through the completion of two extended CNO Maintenance Avails, an INSURV inspection, a dual ARG at Sea BOLD ALLIGATOR Exercise, a Homeport shift from Norfolk, VA to Mayport, FL and full pre deployment workups.
He most recently led the IWO JIMA BLUE/GREEN Team of 2,850 Sailors and Marines through a highly successful 8-month deployment to the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, performing contingency operations in support of the Yemen Embassy Evacuation and other critical operations in the Red Sea. Following this highly successful deployment, IWO JIMA was rewarded for their hard work by winning the Battle "E", CNO and SECNAV Safety and Admiral Flatley Awards for Shipboard and Aviation Safety for 2015.
Capt. Joseph O'Brien has joined USS Iwo Jima as the new executive officer.
O'Brien, a native of Manasquan, NJ, has graduated with merit from the United States Naval Academy in 1993. At the completion of flight training in 1995 he was designated a Naval Aviator and reported to the "Airwolves" of HSL-40 for SH-60B fleet replacement pilot training.
In 1996 he reported to the HSL-42 "Proud Warriors" where he deployed as Detachment SIX Training Officer in USS NICHOLAS (FFG 47) and Maintenance Officer for Detachment FOUR in USS DEWERT (FFG 45). While not deployed he served as Squadron Assistant Operations Officer and Quality Assurance Officer.
Captain O'Brien reported to HSL-40 in 2000 as a SH-60B Fleet Replacement Squadron Instructor Pilot. During his tour, he served as Training Schedules Officer and Assistant Training Officer and was recognized as the Naval Helicopter Association's 2001 Instructor of the Year.
In 2002, Captain O'Brien returned to sea duty as Assistant Air Operations Officer for Captain Carrier Strike Group TWELVE in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65). He qualified as Flag Tactical Watch Officer and Battle Watch Captain, deployed to the Arabian Gulf and directed combat operations across the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility.
Captain O'Brien's next assignment was with the "Vipers" of HSL-48 where he deployed as Officer in Charge Detachment SIX in USS O'BANNON (DD 997) to the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Ashore he served as Squadron Maintenance Officer. In November 2005 he was ordered to Naval War College in Newport RI where he graduated with distinction, earning a Master of Arts Degree in National Security Studies. Following graduation he reported to The Joint Chief's Staff in Arlington VA where he served as an Action Officer and the Executive Assistant to the he deputy Director for Resources and Acquisition in the J-8 directorate.
In March 2010, O'Brien assumed the duties of Executive Officer of the "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light FOUR FOUR (HSL-44) where he completed a transition to the MH-60R helicopter. In June 2011, CAPT O'Brien became the first Commanding Officer for Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron SEVEN FOUR (HSM-74).
Following a successful command tour, Captain O'Brien was assigned as Navigator in USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH (CVN 77) where he deployed to the Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.