Willard Assumes Command of U.S. Pacific Fleet

Thursday, May 10, 2007
Adm. Robert F. Willard, former Vice Chief of Naval Operations, salutes as he’s piped through the sideboys during a change of command ceremony for Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet on board Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Willard assumed command of U.S. Pacific Fleet from Adm. Gary Roughead during the ceremony. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Adm. Robert F. Willard relieved Adm. Gary Roughead as commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet during a change of command ceremony held May 8 at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen presided over the ceremony, which overlooked the historic memorials of USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Mullen recognized Roughead for the latest chapter in an amazing career and passed the helm to Willard who, he said, was sitting like a Tomcat waiting to launch.

“Next to heroism and war, this ceremony represents the zenith of military achievement -- a significant milestone in the careers of two great naval officers,” Mullen said. Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy J. Keating, joined the CNO in praising Roughead for his many contributions to the Pacific Fleet and to the state of Hawaii, and in welcoming Willard to the Navy’s largest fleet command. The U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses more than 100 million square miles and 172 ships and submarines, 1,296 aircraft, and 122,000 Sailors, Reservists and civilians.

“It is my privilege to speak for all the men and women -– Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and the entire Pacific Command -– in expressing our sincere thanks to Gary Roughead for [his] service in this world’s largest and most demanding naval theater, United States Pacific Fleet,” Keating said. “You have made great strides in terms of security, engagement and an open relationship with all the 43 countries in our area of responsibility.”

According to Mullen and Keating, Roughead remained focused on warfighting, force posturing, building regional relationships and, most importantly, leading the fleet during his tour as U.S. Pacific Fleet commander. “At Pacific Fleet we set warfighting as our No. 1 priority, and it must be that way,” Roughead said. “We have demonstrated that our naval forces are ready and flexible and agile.” All agreed that from the fleet’s continued support in the nation’s global war on terrorism to naval hospital ship USNS Mercy’s (T-AH 19) deployments to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the men and women of Pacific Fleet have projected decisive maritime power when ordered, have built strong maritime partnerships, and have maintained the highest level of mission readiness.

“I have seen firsthand, the readiness you have delivered today. The ships looked great. But, what impressed me most were the Sailors,” said Mullen, as he spoke of recent visits to Pacific Fleet ships and submarines. “Their pride and professionalism filled my chest with pride. These are your people. Our people. They are ready, and they want to make a difference. They are a testament to your leadership.” Mullen also spoke of the contributions made by Roughead’s wife thanking her for her leadership, her involvement in a diverse array of activities, and her commitment to improving the quality of life for the Pacific Fleet families. She received the distinguished public service award. Before relinquishing command, Roughead thanked all in attendance and all who supported him during his time in Hawaii, most specifically speaking of the event that culminated his tour -– the May 5 commissioning of the Navy’s newest fast-attack submarine, USS Hawaii (SSN 776).

“It was the perfect event to close out my time as Pacific Fleet commander,” Roughead said. “I want to thank the citizens of Hawaii, the Aloha State, who represent the unwavering support and the firm commitment to what our Navy and our military does here in the Pacific.” Following the Pacific Fleet tour, Roughead now leaves the islands of Hawaii for Virginia, where he will relieve Adm. John B. Nathman as commander, Fleet Forces Command, later this month in Norfolk. A 1973 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Roughead assumed command of U.S. Pacific Fleet on July 8, 2005, just nine months after reporting as second-in-command of U.S. Pacific Command in October 2004. Prior to his tour there, Roughead served as the commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, commander of the NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic, and commander of Naval Forces North Fleet East based in Norfolk. Other command assignments have included commandant of the Naval Academy; commander of Cruiser Destroyer Group 2 and the George Washington Battle Group; the commanding officer of the Aegis destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) and the Hawaii-based cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73). He is the first naval officer to command both classes of Aegis ships. Willard, also a 1973 graduate of the Naval Academy, most recently completed his assignment as the 34th vice chief of naval operations in Washington. An F-14 aviator, he has served in the Joint Staff, was deputy and chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet here from October 2001 to June 2002, and commanded Carrier Group 5 aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and the U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan. Other assignments also include the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun), commanding officer of USS Tripoli (LPH 10) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Mullen, before concluding the ceremony, placed his utmost confidence in Willard and his wife as they embark on the journey of leading the Pacific Fleet. “They are excited, and they are the right couple at the right time to assume the watch. Our Navy has a way of finding good talent, fitting just the right people in the right place even as the superb ones move on,” Mullen said as he posed to Willard a similar challenge given to Adm. Chester Nimitz in World War II.

"[At the onset of the war] Adm. Chester Nimitz received word to take command of the Pacific Fleet. Nimitz wrote back, ‘It is a great responsibility and I will do my utmost to meet it.’ [Bob,] I know you will do the utmost to meet it as well,” said Mullen. After reading his orders, Willard echoed the historic significance of commanding the Pacific Fleet and accepted the challenge set out before him. “For a U.S. naval officer, there are few leadership assignments that highlight the tradition, the history, and the operational opportunities than the Pacific Fleet,” Willard said. “Whether by ensuring regional partners by our presence, sharing our knowledge of the maritime domain to promote safety, helping enforce the laws of the sea, or actively defending friends and the United States from threats of attack from on, under or above the seas. The Pacific Fleet remains vital to our nation and to this region. I have every confidence in this fleet’s capabilities. I am thrilled and humbled to be given the opportunity to command.”

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