NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- Adm. Mark Fitzgerald turned over command to Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, during a change of command ceremony at Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples, Oct. 6.
The ceremony marked the completion of Fitzgerald's tour as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF), commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
Numerous dignitaries and visitors from civilian and military forces throughout the world attended the ceremony; dignitaries included Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations; Army Gen. William "Kip" Ward, commander, U.S. Africa Command; and German Air Force Gen. Manfred Lange, chief of staff, Allied Command Operations.
"Today, we honor [Fitzgerald] for what he has done to build relationships and partnerships [in Europe and Africa], and we honor him for his 37 years of loyal service to our nation and Navy," said Roughead. "As the U.S. Navy's only component commander that serves two combatant commands, he has displayed that rare mix of vision and leadership to outpace the most sustained operational burdens while fundamentally shaping the community of nations for decades to come. He has been the steady hand in our Navy; over the course of his many accomplishments, it has been his experience, his leadership, and that steady sense of purpose that has served our nation and the larger international community so well as the commander of NAVEUR-NAVAF since he arrived in Naples."
During his time in Naples, Fitzgerald successfully oversaw a large number of missions and programs, to include the multinational annual exercises of Noble Manta, Juniper Cobra, Phoenix Express, and the preconception and introduction of Africa Partnership Station (APS) East and West.
"[Fitzgerald] has personally broadened and deepened global maritime partnerships with our most capable allies and friends, and in key ways, he focused our collective action toward building partnership capacity by bringing APS to life," said Roughead. "In three short years, there has been more international support growing commitment in terms of time and resources, and since early 2009 he has been operating APS on both coasts of Africa. When he concluded APS' final planning conference here last month, there were 25 nations that participated. In three short years, that is a remarkable achievement."
Ward also spoke highly of Fitzgerald's accomplishments with APS and operations in Africa.
"With Fitzgerald's leadership, this command made great strides with the engagements that we had with our African partners, as well as helping promote maritime safety and security and full maritime domain awareness activities in Africa," said Ward. "[NAVEUR-NAVAF] is strengthening existing relationships and expanding our network of partners on the continent, and that is to the good of the global community. The remarkable success of APS is directly attributable to Fitzgerald's amazing leadership."
Roughead then presented Fitzgerald with the Distinguished Service Medal. Ward later presented Fitzgerald with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for distinguished performance of duty contributing to the national security and defense of the United States of America. Lange also presented Fitzgerald with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal for his personal initiative and dedication to furthering peace and security for the NATO alliance, and a NATO Non-Article Five Medal for the Balkans, for his service in Kosovo.
Fitzgerald took the podium and took the time to thank the crew for their hard work.
"We have done world-changing events here at NAVEUR-NAVAF and JFC, and certainly the staff here, and the commanders in the field are the ones that made it happen," said Fitzgerald.
"They continue to keep the alliance safe and secure, protecting its citizens, and promoting democracy, freedom and prosperity. I am truly honored that I was able to work with a true team of professionals."
After he finished reading his orders, Fitzgerald walked to the center of the ceremony floor, where he was joined by Lange, Locklear, Roughead, Ward and Fleet Master Chief Brad LeVault, NAVEUR-NAVAF's fleet master chief, where they participated in the flag-passing part of the ceremony. LeVault gave two U.S. Navy flags to Fitzgerald to signify command of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and command of U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Fitzgerald then passed the flags from Lange, to Roughead, to Ward, then finally to Locklear, completing the symbolic transition of command.
"As we say farewell to one leader, we welcome another great one; [Locklear], who will take command of NAVEUR-NAVAF," said Roughead. "I know there is no one better suited than him to take up this important responsibility, this important command; at a time when global trends will only demand more of our maritime partnerships and in new ways. I know that he will continue to build upon the foundation that Fitzgerald has set, that he will nurture the relationships that Fitzgerald advanced, and he will maintain our Navy's focus in this crucial region. For these are the home waters of our longest and most enduring allies and friends, much of the undeniably global good ever delivered from the sea is generated from here."
Locklear then read his orders, officially taking over command of NAVEUR-NAVAF. Upon becoming commander, NAVEUR-NAVAF, Locklear greeted his new team with a happy welcome and expressed his enthusiasm of joining the team.
"I am deeply honored and proud to serve as the leader of the dedicated men and women of NAVEUR-NAVAF," said Locklear. "I am humbled by the sheer geographic size of this area of responsibility; area that stretches from both poles, touches three continents and is watched by the Arctic, Atlantic and Indian oceans. These are my new home waters, and I will rely on the men and women of NAVEUR-NAVAF to help me navigate them as we work together for a comprehensive approach to enhance security throughout Europe and Africa."
Locklear comes to Naples after serving as Director, Navy Staff. Locklear is a 1992 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and holds a master's degree in Public Administration from George Washington University.
The NAVEUR-NAVAF area of responsibility covers approximately half of the Atlantic Ocean, from the North Pole to Antarctica; as well as the Adriatic, Baltic, Barents, Black, Caspian, Mediterranean and North Seas; to include all of Russia, Europe and nearly the entire continent of Africa.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.