Pacific Fleet Gets New Commander Amid North Korea Tensions, Mishap Crisis

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U.S. Navy Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino, then the deputy chief of naval operations, Plans and Strategy, N3/N5, attends the evening parade reception at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., Aug. 12, 2016.
U.S. Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Paul A. Ochoa

A Navy fighter pilot who less than five months ago became head of Navy forces in the Middle East has been selected as the next commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.


Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Friday that President Donald Trump nominated Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino for the rank of four-star admiral and the important Hawaii job at a time of concern over fleet operations and safety in the region and extreme tensions with North Korea.

Adm. Scott Swift, current commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, was seen as a shoo-in as the next head of U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith — until he was told he was being passed over for the job by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, in the wake of a series of Navy ship collisions in the Western Pacific last year.

Swift in late September announced he planned to retire — with no date given.

“Submitting this request now is done with an abundance of respect and admiration for the CNO and his leadership, as well as for the chairman (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and secretary of defense as both of them face the challenge of selecting someone to step into the leadership role” of Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command.

It was an unusual public response to the chief of naval operations by the four-star commander.

Aquilino, a native of Huntington, N.Y., graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984. He entered flight training and earned his wings in August 1986. He served in numerous operational fighter squadrons flying the F-14 A/B Tomcat and the F-18 C/E/F Hornet, his Navy biography states. He has more than 5,100 flight hours and over 1,150 carrier-arrested landings.

Aquilino served on extended deployments in support of Operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force, Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He also was director of maritime operations for Pacific Fleet.

In his most recent job, which he assumed Sept. 19, Aquilino was commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and commander of Fifth Fleet and Maritime Forces Bahrain.

The world’s largest fleet command, U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles and nearly half the earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the U.S. West Coast into the Indian Ocean. Pacific Fleet has about 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft and more than 130,000 sailors and civilians.

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©2018 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Gen. Chuck Horner (ret.) commanded the air campaign of Desert Storm (Task & Purpose photo illustration)

When Air Force Gen. Chuck Horner (ret.) took to the podium at the dedication of the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial site in Washington D.C. last February, he told the audience that people often ask him why a memorial is necessary for a conflict that only lasted about 40 days.

Horner, who commanded the U.S. air campaign of that war, said the first reason is to commemorate those who died in the Gulf War. Then he pointed behind him, towards the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the names of over 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam are etched in granite.

"These two monuments are inexorably linked together," Horner said. "Because we had in Desert Storm a president and a secretary of defense who did the smartest thing in the world: they gave the military a mission which could be accomplished by military force."

The Desert Storm Memorial "is a place every military person that's going to war should visit, and they learn to stand up when they have to, to avoid the stupidness that led to that disaster" in Vietnam, he added.

Now, 29 years after the operation that kicked Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army out of Kuwait began, the U.S. is stuck in multiple wars that Horner says resemble the one he and his fellow commanders tried to avoid while designing Desert Storm.

Horner shared his perspective on what went right in the Gulf War, and what's gone wrong since then, in an interview last week with Task & Purpose.

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Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar (U.S. Army photo)

The Navy SEAL accused of strangling Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was promoted to chief petty officer two months after Melgar's death, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.

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U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from the 95th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly in formation after an air refueling over the Mediterranean Sea on August 16, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Preston Cherry)

The number of major aviation mishaps and associated fatalities among U.S. service members across all four main branches fell dramatically in fiscal year 2019, according to data reviewed by Task & Purpose, a sign of progress amid growing worries of a crisis in U.S. military aviation.

The U.S. military saw 42 Class A mishaps and just 13 related fatalities in fiscal year 2019 across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, well below the U.S. military's six-year high of 52 incidents and 39 deaths in fiscal year 2018.

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Tech. Sgt. Sean Neri, 341st Security Forces Support Squadron vehicle readiness center NCO-in charge, poses in his custom-made Mandalorian suit and in his Air Force uniform Jan. 15, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. (Air Force illustration by Devin Doskey)

When it comes to saving the world, sometimes one uniform just isn't enough. At least, that's what seems to motivate Tech. Sgt. Sean Neri, who, in between coordinating vehicles for security forces at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., dresses up as a Star Wars bounty hunter and volunteers at community fundraisers.

"One of my coworkers introduced me to costuming and showed me there are organizations out there who use it for charity work," said Neri in a Jan. 21 article by Devin Doskey, public affairs specialist for the 341st Missile Wing.

"As a cop, I love being able to help people, but upon discovering I could do it while being a character for Star Wars, I was hooked," said Neri, who is the NCO in charge of vehicle readiness for the 341st Security Forces Support Squadron.

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A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 911th Airlift Wing is towed across the flightline at March Air Reserve Base, California, Jan. 7, 2020. (Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

March Air Reserve Base in California will host nearly 200 U.S. citizens who were flown out of Wuhan, China due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus, a Defense Department spokeswoman announced on Wednesday.

"March Air Reserve Base and the Department of Defense (DoD) stand ready to provide housing support to Health and Human Services (HHS) as they work to handle the arrival of nearly 200 people, including Department of State employees, dependents and U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China," said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah in a statement on Wednesday.

Wuhan is the epicenter of the coronavirus, which is a mild to severe respiratory illness that's associated with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus has so far killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 others in China, according to news reports.

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