MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F)/Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain Sept. 19.
Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino relieved Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan as commander of naval forces in the central command area of responsibility.
Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in his remarks that during Donegan's tenure, his contributions had made his team better and had made CENTCOM better, helping make this part of the world a little safer for everyone.
"NAVCENT's list of accomplishments over the past two years is long and distinguished. In a very dynamic and at times tense area of operations, the team here has performed magnificently time and time again," said Votel.
Donegan has served as the NAVCENT/C5F/CMF commander since assuming command in September 2015. On any given day, he led more than 15,000 U.S. and coalition Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians in the conduct of maritime security operations to ensure the free flow of commerce, to build and expand maritime partnerships and deter potential adversaries in one of the world's most critical maritime corridors.
"As the commander here, I have had the distinct privilege of leading a force of experienced and gifted service members and civilians, dedicated to our mission," said Donegan. "Now with mixed emotions I'm going to turn over command. On the one hand, it is an opportunity to look back at the many successful accomplishments, but I'd also like to say a final farewell to a wonderful team that has really helped me along the way and to great friends that I have made in the region. I'll especially miss the strong bonds and relationships and personal friendships that I made in Bahrain."
He then praised the Sailors serving in the U.S. 5th Fleet, saying, "Our job in this complex and challenging region is not an easy one and most commanders in other parts of the world generally speak of maintaining peace and stability in their regions. In CENTCOM we don't have that luxury. There are four active conflicts in this region. The good news is that as a result of the work of this team, working together with our allies and partners they've been successful at keeping these conflicts from spilling into the maritime and impacting the free flow of commerce."
During the ceremony, Donegan was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
Aquilino comes to NAVCENT following his most recent tour as the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy. His previous flag assignments include serving as the director of Strategy and Policy (J5), U.S. Joint Forces Command; deputy director, Joint Force Coordinator (J31), the Joint Staff; commander of Carrier Strike Group 2; and director of Maritime Operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Aquilino reiterated the United States' commitment to maritime security in the region along with pledging to strengthen existing relationships and foster new partnerships throughout the region.
"Having deployed to this region many times, and recently watched the activities from my chair at the Pentagon, I'm honored to lead this uniquely important forward-deployed fleet.
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
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