NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF), Commander, Allied Joint Forces Command (JFC) Naples, retired concluding a 37-year Naval career, here, Oct. 6.
Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald, a native of Winchester, Mass., retired following a change of command ceremony at JFC Naples attended by senior military and civilian guests.
"Today, we honor [Fitzgerald] for what he has done to build relationships and partnerships, and we honor him for his 37 years of loyal service to our nation and Navy," said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. "[Fitzgerald's] record of service is one that is highlighted with leadership and command in peace and war. It's been his experience, his leadership, and that steady sense of purpose that has served our nation and the larger international community so well."
Roughead continued citing Fitzgerald's significant and lasting contributions to the security of our partners in Europe and Africa. He emphasized Fitzgerald's role in improving international maritime cooperation efforts combating piracy, illicit trafficking and improving energy security infrastructure within the vast area of responsibility.
As commander of NAVEUR-NAVAF, Fitzgerald's area of responsibility covered 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.
"After 37 years of wearing this uniform, it really seems like yesterday I just started," said Fitzgerald. "College, marriage, our honeymoon, which was driving for three days to Pensacola, and then I started flying off of our great aircraft carriers in the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian oceans. Flying down south of the Equator, to the fjords of Norway, Caribbean, Red Sea, and Arabian Gulf...what an exciting life."
Also speaking at the ceremony were German Gen. Manfred Lange, chief of staff, Allied Command Operations, who complimented Fitzgerald for his significant achievements in bringing stability to the Balkans, Iraq and Mediterranean; and Gen. William "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, who lauded Fitzgerald's numerous accomplishments in Africa.
"Success does not just happen," said Ward. "It takes leadership, vision, ingenuity, teamwork and a lot of hard work. Over the past three years, this command, under Fitzgerald's leadership, has been busy developing strategy, plans, and conducting sustained security engagement and operations to promote maritime safety and security, and helping to build partner security capacity in Africa."
Fitzgerald was commissioned in the Navy in 1973 and was designated a naval aviator in October 1975. He served at several carrier based attack squadrons, commanding a squadron during Desert Storm and leading the first Navy strike on Baghdad. He was selected for flag rank in September 1998, where his first flag assignment was as deputy commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and he commanded Joint Task Force Determined Response in Aden, Yemen. He also served in several positions at the Pentagon, and commanded the U.S. 2nd Fleet. He turned over command of NAVEUR-NAVAF, JFC Naples to Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III.
His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, three Navy Distinguished Service Medals, Defense Superior Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat "V", the Bronze Star, Air Medals, and numerous other awards including NATO Meritorious Service Medal, Knight of the Maltese Cross (Grand Officer), German Cross of Honour in Gold, and Hungarian Alliance Service Medal. He has logged almost 5,000 flight hours and has completed over 1,100 carrier-arrested landings from 13 aircraft carriers.
Also recognized during the ceremony was Fitzgerald's wife, the former Barbara Newell, of Worcester, Mass., who was recently awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, for her significant contributions to Navy and Military families. Mrs. Fitzgerald worked diligently in support of three separate commands to develop an atmosphere of collaboration among political, civilian and military leaders, service members and their spouses as the Senior Lady for the Allied and Naples Overseas Spouses Club, honorary member of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, and advisor to NAVEUR-NAVAF/JFC Naples Ombudsmen.
Fitzgerald and his wife, Barbara, plan to make Jacksonville, Fla. their new home.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.