Pacific security called key for Asia
Pacific Fleet leader Adm. Gary Roughead will head Fleet Forces Command in Virginia
Adm. Gary Roughead, the Pacific Fleet commander for nearly two years, maintains that the continual economic prosperity now experienced in Asia depends on protecting "sea lines of communication" in the Pacific Basin.
Roughead, who leaves Tuesday as the 30th Pacific Fleet commander to head Fleet Forces Command in Virginia, points out that "the trade that flows between the United States and the Pacific is three and a half times the trade that flows between United States and Europe."
Since 1993, much of Roughead's naval career has been tied to the Pacific, which he acknowledges creates a personal bias.
Talking with reporters last week from his Makalapa headquarters, Roughead was surrounded by the naval traditions of the Pacific that stretch back nearly six decades. There are photos and paintings of Adm. Chester Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific Fleet in World War II. Sand particles from the Japanese fortress island of Iwo Jima -- considered vital in the U.S. campaign during World War II to subdue Japan -- lie on a coffee table in his office.
Roughead, 56, said Nimitz, the warrior and statesman, served as a mentor.
"We who live here really understand the energy that is taking place in the Pacific today -- the trade, the increasing prosperity and the emergence of the economies here," said Roughead, who has commanded two of the Navy's most advanced warships, an Aegis destroyer and cruiser.
"As we look to the future, it is clear that our prosperity is inextricably linked to the economies that are rising. The fact of the matter is that whenever you talk about trade, you have to talk about the oceans.
"The sea lines of communications that bring the resources into Asia, the fuel, the products that Asia produces that flow out into the global market, almost all of it moves on the water. The one thing that has been clear to me ... is the recognition on the part of our friends and partners in the region that security of what we call the sea lines of communication is key to that prosperity continuing to increase."
Since July 2005, when Roughead assumed command of the Pacific Fleet and its more than 190,000 sailors and Marines and about 30,000 civilians, the Navy has moved its forces "like we have never done in the past," he said. He cites as his accomplishments that the Navy:
» For the first time in 30 years brought together the largest carrier force in the western Pacific when the USS Kitty Hawk, USS Reagan and USS Lincoln maneuvered last summer near Guam.
» Deployed the hospital ship USNS Mercy into Southeast Asia and treated 61,000 people.
» Showed its ballistic missile capabilities during the North Korean missile crisis in July.
"From the very high end of warfighting to very meaningful effective humanitarian assistance operations, we've been able to use our Navy quite effectively," Roughead added.
He said what has changed over the past few months is that instead of only two countries working together, there are more cooperative efforts among several Asian nations.
Roughead pointed to the multinational Rim of the Pacific naval games last year where for the first time "all countries agree to be on the same information network," he said. "That had never happened before."
He also singled out work done by the Navy in working with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to support their efforts to police the Malacca Straits, an area through which nearly half of the world's oil and more than a third of global trade passes.
With help from the United States, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia worked together and manned ship and air patrols. They agreed to exchange information to drive down the risk of piracy, Roughead said.
Roughead, a 1973 Naval Academy graduate, moved to the Pacific Fleet from the U.S. Pacific Command, where he served as its deputy. He was the first surface warfare officer to command both an Aegis-class destroyer, the USS Barry, and an Aegis-class cruiser, the Pearl Harbor-based USS Port Royal, in 1996-97; served as commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy from August 1997 to April 2000; and headed the Cruiser Destroyer Group Two while serving as the USS George Washington Carrier Battle Group leader.