Monday, June 15, 2009

US Third Fleet Changes Command Aboard USS Nimitz

News in Balance
News from the U.S. Navy.

News in Balance:

SAN DIEGO, June 15, 2009 -- Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet held a change of command ceremony aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) June 12.

Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt relieved Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III.

During his tour as 3rd Fleet commander, Locklear directed the successful completion of many deployments and humanitarian missions and oversaw the successful completion of 3rd Fleet's maritime operations center accreditation.

In October 2008, Locklear supervised USS Paul Hamilton's(DDG 60) successful intercept of a ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean during Fleet Exercise Pacific Blitz. This was the first fleet operational firing to employ the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) against a ballistic missile target.

"Pacific Blitz highlights the successful transition from developmental test flights to operational fleet execution and demonstrates the viability of the Maritime [Ballistic Missile Defense] concept of operations," said Locklear.

Exercise Pacific Blitz was soon followed by Exercise Stellar Daggers. During this event, USS Benfold (DDG 65)'s Aegis Weapons System successfully detected and intercepted a cruise missile target with a SM-2 BLK IIIA, and simultaneously detected and intercepted an incoming short range ballistic missile (SRBM) target with a modified SM-2 BLK IV. This was the first time the fleet successfully tested the Aegis system's ability to intercept both an SRBM in terminal phase and a low-altitude cruise missile target at the same time.

Also during Locklear's tenure, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the Navy on the challenge to Navy's use of sonar for the 14 anti-submarine warfare combat certification training exercises off the coast of Southern California. The Supreme Court vacated the two training restrictions in the preliminary injunction that Navy told the Supreme Court unacceptably restricted Sailors' ability to conduct realistic combat training with mid-frequency active sonar in Southern California.

"This decision is a victory for the nation to achieve a balanced, responsible approach to meeting the Navy's dual obligation for maintaining a trained and effective force and environmental stewardship," said Locklear.

In April, Locklear led the establishment of the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC) in Dahlgren, Va. NAMDC is the lead organization for naval, joint, combined and integrated missile defense matters

As commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, one of Locklear's primary roles included the training and deployment of more than 65,000 Sailors on 134 operational assets.

"I am honored to have led the exceptional men and women of the Third Fleet team. Your performance, dedication to mission accomplishment and overall stewardship is second to none, and I am proud to have been your commander for the last two years," Locklear stated in a farewell message.

Locklear, a native of South Carolina, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1977, with a Bachelor of Science degree in operations analysis. His sea tours include, commanding officer of USS Leftwich (DD 984); Commander, Destroyer Squadron 2; Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 5 and Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11 while embarked on nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Nimitz

Locklear departs 3rd Fleet for an assignment as director, Navy Staff, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, at the Pentagon in Washington.

Hunt reports from Washington where he was director, Programming Division, OPNAV N80. He takes command of 3rd Fleet's Area of Responsibility from the international dateline to the eastern Pacific, and commands the ships and airplanes operating in these areas.

(Report from a U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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