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Pentagon Nominates 5th, 3rd Fleet Commanders, Announces OPNAV Staff Appointments

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Operations, Plans and Strategy) Vice Adm. John Aquilino speaks with international students from the Navy Command College (NCC) on April 21, 2017. US Navy photo.

The Navy announced several major staffing changes, including nominating two new numbered fleet commanders and two new appointments on the chief of naval operations’ staff.

Vice Adm. John Aquilino, who currently serves as deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans, and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5), is nominated to serve as the next commander of U.S. 5th Fleet and commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Aquilino graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984. He earned his wings in 1986, has flown the F-14 A/B Tomcat and the F-18 C/E/F Hornet, and graduated from Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Aquilino has commanded Strike Fighter Squadron VF-11, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2. As a flag officer, he served as director of Strategy and Policy (J5) at U.S. Joint Forces Command, deputy director for Joint Force Coordinator (J31) at the Joint Staff, and director of Maritime Operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, left, Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Rear Adm. John Alexander cut the commemorative cake after the Commander, Task Force 70 (CTF 70) change of command ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on July 29, 2016. US Navy photo.

Rear Adm. John Alexander, the current director of maritime operations at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was nominated to the rank of vice admiral and to serve as the next commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet in San Diego.

Alexander was designated a naval flight officer in November 1983 and served as an A-6E bombardier/navigator. He has commanded Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, amphibious transport dock USS Juneau (LPD-10) and aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). As a flag officer he commanded Battle Force 7th Fleet (CTF 70/CSG 5), forward deployed aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in Yokosuka, Japan.

Rear Adm. William Merz, commander, Submarine Group 7, salutes as he goes through the sideboys aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) on May 8, 2015. US Navy photo.

Rear Adm. Rear Adm. Bill Merz, the current director of undersea warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N97), was nominated to the rank of vice admiral and to serve as the next deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems (OPNAV N9).

Merz is a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has previously commanded USS Memphis (SSN-691) and Submarine Development Squadron (DEVRON) 12. Just prior to coming to the Pentagon to lead OPNAV N97, Merz commanded Submarine Group 7, which encompassed both Task Force 74 in Yokosuka, Japan, and Task Force 54 in Bahrain.

Rear Adm. John Tammen, commander, Submarine Group 9, delivers remarks during a change of command ceremony for the Blue crew of the Ohio-class guided missile submarine USS Michigan (SSBN 727) on July 7, 2017. US Navy photo.

Rear Adm. John Tammen will replace Merz as director of undersea warfare. He currently serves as commander of Submarine Group 9 in Washington. Tammen has commanded USS Georgia (SSBN/SSGN-729) and Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 19. He has also worked for N97 previously, as a section head for platforms, payloads and budget and as deputy director. Prior to commanding Submarine Group 9, Tammen served as deputy director for plans and policy (J5) at U.S. Strategic Command.