PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - Adm. Cecil D. Haney, former deputy of the U.S. Strategic Command, relieved Adm. Patrick M. Walsh as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during a change of command ceremony onboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam today.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert presided over the ceremony and praised Walsh for his service in the Navy and the impact his leadership had on the command.
"He's had a marvelous career. He knows what it means to take care of a family, he knows what it means to take care of a command, and he's encouraged his staff to do the same," said Greenert to a crowd of almost 900 attendees. "He's (Walsh) all about being ready, he's harnessed that Pacific Fleet teamwork, the talent and resources."
Greenert also praised Walsh for his ability to foster strong international relationships.
"Pat has been committed to the building and improving of our relationships in and around the Western Pacific."
Under Walsh's command, U.S. Pacific Fleet provided humanitarian relief for numerous countries struck by natural disasters including Operation Tomodachi, a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort conducted in response to the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent radiological crisis that impacted Japan in March 2011.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Adm. Robert F. Willard praised Walsh for his work leading all US military support efforts during Operation Tomodachi.
"As the magnitude of this epic disaster reached an unprecedented scale of any of our experience, my senior staff implored me to assign our senior most joint warfighting commander to lead the U.S. response. That morning Adm. Pat Walsh assembled elements of his joint task force staff and prepared to depart for Japan," said Willard. "Everyday I observed Pat's organization, initiative, imagination and drive to provide Gen. Oriki (Japan Joint Staff) and his forces every service they required, including nuclear engineering expertise on an unprecedented scale. Such leadership will never be forgotten in Japan nor in the Pacific Fleet, that is the legacy of Admiral Pat "Sponge" Walsh."
In his remarks, Walsh spoke of the important role maritime forces play in the vast Pacific Fleet area of responsibility, and the U.S. Navy's commitment to that role.
"In this region, sea power is an essential element of national power," said Walsh. "In the Pacific Century, sea power resumes its traditional role in the sea-lines of communication. It's an instrument of peace; it's an instrument of stability; it's a protector of trade and development."
He warned that other nations are gauging our commitment, particularly in light of budget constraints.
"They are watching with keen interest the effect of the U.S. economic challenges, the strain of more than a decade of war on the Navy's ability to remain forward, to remain engaged and ready," said Walsh.
But he stressed that the Navy has overcome such challenges before and remains committed to maintaining regional stability.
"Let's be very clear: we have been here before," said Walsh. "We have faced austere economic cycles in the past. And while the American public has kept faith with the Navy, they have not changed their view of our mission or their expectations of our response to crisis conditions."
Walsh, who is retiring after 34 years in the Navy, is confident in Haney's capabilities and leadership.
"If ever there were a person who's ready for the challenge to assume command of the Pacific Fleet with all its complexities, with all of its challenges and who has worked and held critical leadership positions at every level, it's Cecil Haney," said Walsh.
After reading his orders and assuming command, Haney thanked "our international allies and partners and our local community for (their) enduring relationship with the U.S. Navy" and expressed enthusiasm about his tour at Pacific Fleet.
"I look forward to getting acquainted with you and building on the foundation of trust and mutual respect that Adm. Walsh has nurtured," Haney said. "The U.S. Navy has been a dutiful servant of the nation and its people, and a champion of freedom, security and prosperity abroad. In the Pacific, our history is rich and we have played an integral role in furthering those principles to better the lives of others."
Haney said he will work with the other military services to support U.S. Pacific Command to enhance "maritime security and freedom of the seas with the talented men and women of Pacific Fleet and our allies and partners."
Haney said he is "most grateful to Adm. Walsh for his unparalleled leadership of Pacific Fleet and tireless efforts strengthening critical ties to enhance security of the region" as well as the Sailors "headquartered here and on station across the Pacific (who) performed remarkably across a wide spectrum of our Navy's mission areas."
Haney is the 33rd naval officer to command the Pacific Fleet since it was established in February 1941 with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a bachelor's of science degree in oceanic engineering, Haney is also a recipient of the Vice Admiral James Stockdale Leadership Award for 1998.