Louisiana Man to Command Modern Version of WWII-Era Ship

Commander Matt Noland stands before the original USS Kidd.
Commander Matt Noland, who became the commanding officer of the current destroyer USS Kidd on May 12, 2021, stands before the original USS Kidd, on July 5, 2019, which is now the centerpiece of a military museum in Baton Rouge, La. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. — As a youngster, Matt Noland explored the USS Kidd Veterans Museum in Baton Rouge — and the World War II-era ship in his hometown played a part in his decision to follow a career in the Navy.

Now he’s second in command of the modern USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer based in Everett Washington that provides air defense, anti-submarine defense and anti-surface warfare. And, on Wednesday, he’ll become the commander of the ship and its crew of 350.

Noland, 43, has served as executive officer of the ship for the last 20 months, making sure the ship ran like a well-oiled machine for Commander Nathan Wemett, who’s leaving for duty on the administrative staff of an overseas Navy base.

“All the ship’s five departments and the divisions in those departments come together for the first time at the level of executive officer,” Noland said in an interview last week.

Nolan said it’s the hardest job he’s ever had — but also the best job.

“You’re in the position every single day to be a positive example to hundreds of people,” Noland said. “That’s humbling and exciting and makes you want to be a better person every day.”

“The commanding officer’s job will be even better,” he added. “I can’t wait.”

A graduate of McKinley High School and LSU, Noland, who holds a master’s degree in strategy from the Naval War College, has served on two guided missile cruisers and one guided missile frigate and has been stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Japan.

He served as a warfare and tactics instructor at the Navy base in San Diego, the principal home port of the Pacific fleet, before becoming executive officer of the USS Kidd in September 2019.

“There’s nowhere else in the Navy that provides the opportunity to really lead people from such an early moment in the career pipeline,” Noland said. “Our young officers are leading sailors from the very beginning.”

“It’s demanding from day one, but I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience, from its earliest beginning to its fullest realization,” he said.

Noland will be wearing his dress blues at Wednesday’s ceremony on the USS Kidd’s pier in Everett, Washington, when he and outgoing Commander Wemett each read their official orders with respect to the change of command.

“It’s honoring the commander who’s leaving,” Noland said.

Noland’s wife, Elizabeth, and their three daughters, as well as his parents, grandmother, sister and niece, from Baton Rouge, will be there too.

Noland, who joined the Navy ROTC in college and graduated from LSU with a degree in history, said he decided to follow a Navy career, after meeting fellow students who were Marines.

The USS Kidd Veterans Museum was part of it, too, he said.

Noland hopes to one day be able to establish a connection between today’s sailors of the USS Kidd, the third ship to bear the name, and the USS Kidd Veterans Museum in Baton Rouge.

The ships are named for Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who was killed in action aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first American flag officer killed in WWII.

Noland envisions a day when he could perhaps partner with the USS Kidd Veterans Museum and send some of his top sailors to take part in a ceremony there.

“They could sample that good Louisiana cooking, too,” he said. “Everybody needs to.”

This article was written by ELLYN COUVILLION, The Advocate from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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