MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) staff members and assigned units have made community involvement and relationship building an important part of NAVSO's mission and will continue similar goals in the Jacksonville area and Latin America with the re-establishment of U.S. 4th Fleet.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead re-established 4th Fleet in a ceremony July 12 and named Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan as its commander. Also during the ceremony, Kernan relieved Rear Adm. James W. Stevenson Jr. as NAVSO commander.
Stevenson spoke highly of NAVSO's past community involvement.
"Since NAVSO arrived in Mayport in 2005, the command has completed a number of projects in the community, and we've really enjoyed all of the positive feedback from the people who have been affected by our work," said Stevenson. "Our Sailors are part of the Jacksonville and Mayport community, and they have put forth a tremendous amount of effort to make a positive impact."
The new 4th Fleet will join headquarters with NAVSO in Mayport, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure, communications support and personnel already in place and will not involve an increase in forces assigned in Mayport. NAVSO has 122 staff members assigned to the headquarters.
"Although we won't be gaining any more personnel, we plan to continue relationship-building events with the local community as NAVSO and 4th Fleet," said Kernan. "When the people of Jacksonville think of NAVSO and 4th Fleet, we want them to think of our Sailors as an integral part of the community and all the good things they do for the community."
So far in 2008, NAVSO staffers and White Hats Association (WHA) members have conducted several community relations projects in Jacksonville. NAVSO's WHA consists of Sailors in pay grades E-6 and below who volunteer their time to conduct events which build local relationships and strive to support the U.S. Navy's dedication to supporting community ties.
On May 1, WHA members and other NAVSO staffers brought gifts to children at Wolfson Children's Hospital. The WHA sponsored a spaghetti luncheon within the command to raise funds for purchasing gifts. The gifts included stuffed animals, soft footballs, sudoku puzzles, coloring books, games and other suitable age-appropriate toys.
"The kids and their parents were thrilled to see the men and women in uniform coming to visit and give gifts," said Pat Kirkland, Child Life Coordinator at Wolfson Children's Hospital.
Earlier in the year, WHA members and other NAVSO staffers conducted two more community events. The 2008 Duval County Special Olympics, held Feb. 23 at Bolles School, had nearly 300 athletes participating in a variety of sporting events with the assistance of more than 500 volunteers, including several NAVSO Sailors. Groups, businesses, and individuals came out to support the participants by assisting with events, guiding the athletes and serving food.
On Feb. 27, WHA members conducted their first trash clean-up along Mayport Road after adopting the area through the Adopt-A-Highway program. Eight volunteers filled 15 large bags with trash for three hours.
"The White Hats Association gives blue shirt Sailors an opportunity to do something positive for the community," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Phillip Bull, WHA president. "The association helps raise morale within the command by giving its members something to do at work outside of their normal job, while benefiting the community."
NAVSO also has an indirect impact on the Jacksonville area through actions not readily visible to the community. Strong, positive relationships between the United States and Latin American partner nations is crucial in maintaining maritime security in the region, ensuring the safety and security of ocean travel and trade. The more than nine million square miles of ocean in the Caribbean and surrounding Central and South America is far too much for one nation's maritime force to secure. A combined effort between the U.S. Navy and partner nations is necessary.
As a central force behind every major naval exercise and operation in the U.S. Southern Command area of focus, NAVSO plays an important role in maintaining cooperative maritime security. Some examples in 2007 include USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) humanitarian civic assistance (HCA) deployment, Hurricane Felix disaster relief to Nicaragua and the first Global Fleet Station HSV Swift deployment.
NAVSO is continuing such efforts in 2008 with Continuing Promise HCA deployments aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and Navy Diver - Global Fleet Station aboard USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51).
NAVSO also supports counter illicit trafficking operations, specifically with patrols in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to interdict and disrupt shipments of cocaine to the United States. In 2007 alone, NAVSO assigned U.S. naval units prevented 86 metric tons of cocaine.
NAVSO, the naval component command for U.S. Southern Command, oversees maritime operations throughout Latin America, including exercises and deployments, counter-illicit trafficking support and theater security cooperation events including communtiy relations projects.
U.S. 4th 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.
For more information on U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and 4th Fleet, visit www.cusns.navy.mil.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.