Vice Adm. Kernan serves as the military deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, Miami. He is second-in-command of one of 10 unified commands under the Department of Defense. Southern Command conducts military operations and promotes security cooperation throughout the 16-million sq. mile area of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
While in the surface warfare community, based in San Diego, he served on USS Downes (FF 1070) and USS Horne (CG 30). Kernan transferred to the naval special warfare community in 1980 and has served in various capacities in naval special warfare, to include tours in underwater demolition; Sea Air and Land (SEAL) and SEAL delivery vehicle teams; Naval Special Warfare Center; and, Naval Special Warfare Command. Additionally, Kernan has served tours on the Navy staff, headquarters commands of the special operations forces community, and within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
His flag officer commands include the Naval Special Warfare Command and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.
He assumed his duties as the U.S. Southern Command military deputy commander in May 2011.