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Adm. Walsh takes over as commander of the wide-ranging U.S. Pacific Fleet


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POSTED: Saturday, September 26, 2009

With the USS Arizona and USS Missouri battleship memorials as a backdrop, Adm. Patrick M. Walsh became the 32nd commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet yesterday.

Walsh, who comes to Hawaii after serving as the 35th vice chief of naval operations, replaced Adm. Robert F. Willard, who will take over the U.S. Pacific Command on Oct. 19.

Walsh will command the Navy's largest area of responsibility extending over half the earth's surface, covering more than 100 million square miles.

Willard will replace Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who is retiring.

Walsh, 54, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He also holds master's and doctorate degrees from Tufts University.

A naval aviator, Walsh was a member of the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron and flew combat missions in the 1991 Desert Storm conflict. He commanded Carrier Air Wing 1 on the USS John Kennedy and Carrier Group 7 on the USS Stennis. While the leader of Naval Forces Central Command and the 5th Fleet, Walsh oversaw maritime security operations in and around Iraq.

“;Today I am fortunate to follow in command of a great leader whose initiatives, goals, efforts and passion helped create one team. I look forward to working for you on that team,”; Walsh said after assuming command of the world's largest naval fleet yesterday.

The Pacific Fleet includes 180 ships and submarines, 1,500 aircraft and 125,000 sailors, Marines and civilians.

Before the ceremony, Willard said he and his wife, Donna, during his nearly three-year tenure, have traveled to more than 25 nations.

“;One of the great memories I will take away from this job were the opportunities to meet so many professionals around the region,”; Willard said.

As incoming Pacific Fleet boss, Walsh said he believes that Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, who served as Pacific Fleet commander from 2005-2007, are moving in the right direction by opening submarine service to women.

Earlier this week, Maybus said he believes “;women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines,”; and Roughead said he is “;very comfortable”; addressing the crewing policy.