Monday, July 14, 2008

U.S. 4th Fleet Officially Re-established

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alan Gragg, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead officially re-established U.S. 4th Fleet and named Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan as its commander during a ceremony at Naval Station Mayport July 12.

The ceremony followed the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) change of command, during which Kernan relieved Rear Adm. James W. Stevenson Jr.

Kernan, the dual-hatted NAVSO and 4th Fleet commander, is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, Central and South America and surrounding waters.

"Re-establishing the Fourth Fleet affirms our support for, and our desire to, enhance cooperative relationships with the navies and maritime services in the Caribbean and Central and South America. It recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the region," said Roughead.

"Our maritime strategy raises the importance of forming global maritime partnerships by working with international partners as the basis for global maritime security. Re-establishing Fourth Fleet allows us to more effectively employ naval forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on mutual interests."

Fourth Fleet was first established in 1943 as one of the original numbered fleets. During World War II, the United States needed a command in charge of protecting against raiders, blockade runners and enemy submarines in the South Atlantic. Fourth Fleet fulfilled that mission until it was disestablished in 1950, and U.S. 2nd Fleet took over its responsibilities.

The new 4th Fleet will be headquartered in Mayport and co-located with NAVSO, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure, communications support and personnel already in place. Fourth Fleet's re-establishment will not involve an increase in forces assigned in Mayport, or result in any permanently assigned ships or aircraft.

With a focus on strengthening friendships and partnerships, 4th Fleet will directly support the U.S. Maritime Strategy by conducting five ongoing missions: support for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, traditional maritime exercises and counterdrug support operations.

"It is an honor to assume command of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and to be granted the privilege of reestablishing U.S. 4th Fleet," Kernan said. "I look forward to continuing the great work Rear Adm. Stevenson has accomplished in demonstrating the United States' commitment to our regional partners in this immensely important part of the world."

The re-establishment and change of command ceremony concluded with Stevenson's retirement after 32 years of naval service.

During Stevenson's tour as NAVSO commander, U.S. Navy's operational focus in the region was greatly increased resulting in enhanced partner nation cooperation and improved collective capabilities. Recent missions championed under Stevenson, such as USNS Comfort's (T-AH 20) 2007 humanitarian medical assistance deployment and the first Global Fleet Station deployment in 2007 with HSV Swift highlight this increased focus.

In 2008, Stevenson oversaw planning and execution of the third-annual Partnership of the Americas deployment, which included the George Washington Carrier Strike Group; as well as Continuing Promise humanitarian civil assistance deployments aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Currently, Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) is conducting Navy Diver – Global Fleet Station with Caribbean Island partner nations.

As the Navy component command of SOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.

Fourth Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NAVSO, exercising operational control of assigned forces. Fourth Fleet conducts the full spectrum of Maritime Security Operations in support of U.S. objectives and security cooperation activities that promote coalition building and deter aggression.