Roughead is reflective on leading Pacific Fleet
When Adm. Gary Roughead assumed command of the Pacific Fleet nearly two years ago, he hung a portrait of Adm. Chester Nimitz and his staff at the signing of the Japanese surrender ceremonies that ended the war in the Pacific in 1945.
"It was like he was looking over my shoulder," Roughead told reporters yesterday from his basement headquarters at Makalapa, which served as a bomb shelter for Nimitz during World War II.
"He (Nimitz) was a great warrior and a great statesmen," added Roughead before he left for the mainland to begin his last round of official duties.
That includes attending the change of command ceremonies in San Diego tomorrow, when Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear will relieve Vice Adm. Barry Costello as commander of the 3rd Fleet.
On Saturday, Roughead will be the principal speaker when he joins Gov. Linda Lingle as the Navy commissions the third Virginia-class nuclear submarine, USS Hawaii, in Groton, Conn.
Roughead on Tuesday will hand over the command of the Pacific Fleet and its more than 190,000 sailors and Marines and some 30,000 civilians to Adm. Robert Willard, current vice chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. Roughead will move to Norfolk, Va., to head the Fleet Forces Command, responsible for managing naval forces primarily in Europe and the Middle East.
Roughead said the Navy will again mass its aircraft carriers in the Pacific this summer in operations similar to those that occurred under Valiant Shield last June near Guam. Three carrier strike groups -- USS Kitty Hawk, USS Reagan and USS Lincoln -- participated in the largest carrier operation since the Vietnam War.
This summer, the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington will be in island waters to take on the nearly six dozen jets and other aircraft currently assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk. It will be one of the last missions for the Kitty Hawk, one of the Navy's few remaining conventionally powered carriers. Following its participation in RIMPAC '08, the George Washington will travel to its new home port in Yokosuka, Japan. Eventually, Washington's air wing will move from Atsugi to Iwakuni, Japan.
Roughead said that positioning a nuclear carrier in Japan "will give us great flexibility in the Pacific" because of its speed and capabilities.
Roughead said that the Navy this summer will continue humanitarian missions that were initiated last year by the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which deployed to war-ravaged areas of the southern Philippines and tsunami-devastated areas of Indonesia.
However, this time using the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, the Navy will take a more "preventive medicine" approach by deploying construction teams to dig wells and fix medical clinics in Southeast Asia.