CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adm. Robert F. Willard, right, succeeded Adm. Gary Roughead, second from left, yesterday as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, left, chief of naval operations, and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, also were on hand. CLICK FOR LARGE
Pacific Fleet helm passes to Willard
The four-star admiral takes command of a region that extends to the Persian Gulf
Adm. Robert "Rat" Willard returned to the islands yesterday "to assume the watch" as 31st commander of the Pacific Fleet, with a jurisdiction that extends to the Persian Gulf.
In hoisting his four-star admiral's flag at Pearl Harbor, Willard said: "The Pacific has never been more relevant in this rapidly evolving world."
Willard, who served as Pacific Fleet's deputy and chief of staff under Adm. Thomas Fargo, said there are "few leadership assignments that rival the traditions, history and operational opportunities of the Pacific Fleet."
The former F-14 Tomcat jet pilot said the prospects of this command are "thrilling, humbling and ... inspiring because of the legacy that it represents."
Willard, a 1973 Naval Academy graduate, replaced Adm. Gary Roughead in a command made up of 172 ships and submarines, 1,296 aircraft and 122,000 sailors, reservists and civilians. Roughead will become the head of Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.
Willard served as operations officer and executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School in San Diego, as well as aerial coordinator for the Paramount-Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun."
He commanded the USS Kitty Hawk carrier group and headed the 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, before he was appointed vice chief of naval operations in March 2005.
Among the dignitaries who honored Willard were Adms. Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, and Timothy Keating, who recently took over the Pacific Command.
Naval leaders from Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia also were in the audience, along with retired Adms. Fargo and Richard Mackey -- two past leaders of the Pacific Command.
From the speaker's podium at Pearl Harbor's Kilo 8 pier, overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri battleship, Mullen praised Roughead for making anti-submarine warfare training a major goal during his nearly two-year tenure. He also spoke of Roughead's role in beefing up the Pacific Fleet's ballistic missile capabilities.
PAST PACIFIC FLEET BOSSES
» Adm. Husband Kimmel: February 1941-December 1941
» Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz: December 1941-November 1945
» Adm. Raymond Spruance: November 1945-February 1946
» Adm. John Towers: February 1946-February 1947
» Adm. Louis Denfeld: February 1947-December 1947
» Adm. Dewitt Ramsey: January 1948-April 1949
» Adm. Arthur Radford: April 1949-July 1953
» Adm. Felix Stump: July 1953-January 1958
» Adm. Maurice Curts: January 1958-February 1958
» Adm. Herbery Hopwood: February 1958-August 1960
» Adm. John Sides: August 1960-September 1963
» Adm. U.S. Grant Sharp: September 1963-June 1964
» Adm. Thomas Moorer: June 1964-March 1965
» Adm. Roy Johnson: March 1965-November 1967
» Adm. John Hyland: November 1967-December 1970
» Adm. Bernard Clarey: December 1970-September 1973.
» Adm. Maurice Weisner: September 1973-August 1976
» Adm. Thomas Hayward: August 1976-May 1978
» Adm. Donald Davis: May 1978-July 1981
» Adm. James Watkins: July 1981-May 1982
» Adm. Sylvester Foley: May 1982-September 1985
» Adm. James Lyons: September 1985-September 1987
» Adm. David Jeremiah: September 1987-February 1990
» Adm. Charles Larson: February 1990-February 1991
» Adm. Robert Kelly: February 1991-August 1994
» Adm. Ronald Zlatoper: August 1994-November 1996
» Adm. Archie Clemins: November 1996-October 1999
» Adm. Thomas Fargo: Oct. 1999-May 2002
» Adm. Walter Doran: May 2002-July 2005
» Adm. Gary Roughead: July 2005-May 2007