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, May 6.
Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney relieved Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino, who served as commander of NAVCENT/C5F/CMF since September 2017.
"Command of NAVCENT is an extremely demanding duty assignment in what has become the most complex operating environment perhaps in the world," said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command and guest speaker at the ceremony. "It's a position that requires technical and tactical competence, diplomatic finesse and above all, dependable leadership. Over the past eight months Vice Admiral Aquilino has shown himself the perfect fit for such an assignment, as he provided the purpose, direction and motivation you would expect from the high quality leader he is."
During his tenure at NAVCENT/C5F/CMF, Aquilino led more than 20,000 U.S. and coalition Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians in maritime security operations to ensure the free flow of commerce, build and expand maritime partnerships and deter potential adversaries in one of the world's most critical maritime corridors.
In a message read aloud at the ceremony sent by Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson, the CNO expressed his appreciation for Aquilino's leadership.
"You [Aquilino] led your team with unrivaled competence and character and ensured that an effective U.S. posture would protect our interests and also strengthen our allies and partners," said the CNO in the message. "Exercising constant vigilance over the readiness and lethality of your assigned forces, you disrupted and countered violent extremists during the execution of combat operations in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom's Sentinel."
During Aquilino's speech, he took the opportunity to express his gratitude to those under his charge.
"This is the most challenging area of operations in the world," said Aquilino. "I am honored to sincerely extend my deepest gratitude to your families and friends for their sacrifice and their support of you, who have met every challenge which we have faced as a cohesive NAVCENT team."
During the ceremony, Aquilino was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by Votel.
Stearney, a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a graduate of University of Notre Dame, expressed his readiness to lead the team and work together to accomplish the mission.
"I fully intend to carry on the many efforts for building partnerships, interoperability and cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the many allied and partner nations from the Arabian Gulf, and beyond, who do so much to keep conflict out of the maritime and promote security and stability," said Stearney.
Stearney joins the NAVCENT team after recently serving as the director of operations, U.S. Central Command.
Aquilino leaves a team of warfighters who embodied his strategic vision to operate lethal naval power projection forces forward that are manned, trained, equipped, rested and ready to deter adversaries, assure partners and complete globally.
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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