In a double change-of-command ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Adm. Harry Harris was promoted from U.S. Pacific Fleet commander to U.S. Pacific Command commander, and Adm. Scott Swift earned a fourth star and took over as the new PACFLT commander.
Swift most recently served as director of Navy Staff at the Pentagon, but he is no stranger to the Pacific. In addition to being born in Pearl Harbor when his father was stationed there, Swift previously served as director of operations for PACOM and commander of U.S. 7th Fleet.
Harris too is familiar with the region. Born in Japan, Harris has operated from Japan and Hawaii, attended graduate school to study East Asia security and served as aide to commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan before taking over PACFLT and now PACOM.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter attended the ceremony on Wednesday and spoke of the importance of the region and the good work Harris has done to begin implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance for the Navy.
“At PACFLT, he helped bring our most advanced capabilities to the Asia-Pacific and shift 60 percent of our naval assets to the region,” Carter.
“He also stressed and maintained the readiness that’s at a premium in this dynamic region. For all those reasons and many more, Harry’s the PACOM commander we need for the next phase of the rebalance.”
During the ceremony, Harris said, “there’s no shortage of challenges that confront us. If called upon, we will fight tonight to defend American interests in the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific. This is not aspirational. It is in our DNA. Our nation deserves no less; our President and Secretary of Defense expect no less.”
Carter also honored outgoing PACOM Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear, who took command of the region in March 2012.
“Sam has left a tremendous legacy – in making the rebalance a reality, and as a diplomat, strategist, and leader. But along the way, he also taught so many of us, including me, about America’s enduring interests and commitments in the Asia-Pacific. Sam’s advised a generation of government and military leaders – secretaries of defense, national security advisors, joint chiefs – and we’re going to remember those lessons and build on his legacy as we enter the next phase of our rebalance,” Carter said.
Locklear’s request for retirement had been delayed as part of an ongoing Navy probe into corruption related to Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) deals in the Pacific. Defense News reported that Locklear is on the verge of being cleared of any wrongdoing, which would allow his retirement request to go through.