Home » Aviation » UPDATED: U.S. 5th Fleet Commander Found Dead in Bahrain

UPDATED: U.S. 5th Fleet Commander Found Dead in Bahrain

Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) on Oct. 24, 2018. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with additional details on the investigation.

Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney, commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, was found dead in his quarters in Bahrain on Saturday, according to a statement from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.

While an investigation is ongoing, the death of Stearney will almost certainly be ruled a suicide, a U.S. defense official told USNI News. An official determination on the cause of death is expected by mid-week, USNI News has learned.

A Navy spokesperson didn’t have additional information on the investigation when contacted by USNI News on Saturday.

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected,” read a statement from Richardson.

“Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father, and he was a good friend to all of us,” Richardson said. “The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected. Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of 5th Fleet, has assumed command and is maintaining continuity in our responsibilities and posture in the U.S. 5th Fleet.”

Stearney previously served as director of operations at U.S. Central Command in MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. He was a 1982 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Stearney was designated a Naval Aviator in April 1984, and flew more than 4,500 hours, accumulating more than 1,000 carrier-arrested landings while flying F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters.

His served at sea aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). Ashore, Stearney served as tactics instructor and readiness officer at Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN).

Stearney had taken command of 5th Fleet in May.

The following is the Dec. 1, 2018 statement from Chief of Naval Operations.

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson released the following statement Dec. 1, 2018, on the death of Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney who served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet:

Team, it’s my sad duty to inform you that today the Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and I were told that Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, our commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet, was found deceased in his residence in Bahrain today. This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet, and for the entire U.S. Navy.

Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father, and he was a good friend to all of us. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected. Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of 5th Fleet, has assumed command and is maintaining continuity in our responsibilities and posture in the U.S. 5th Fleet.

I ask that you keep the Stearney family in your prayers and respect their privacy as they navigate through these very difficult times. We will keep you informed as we learn more. Thank you very much.

  • Mia Mama

    Condolences to Family.

  • novictim

    RIP. Condolences to the family.

  • Dennis Swing

    Wow… Rest In Peace Admiral.

  • ChinOhio

    Wow, sad stuff. Condolences to his family and those serving with him. It’s tough to lose your leader.

  • Larry Kaplan

    Sad story.

  • Aaron GrandeCorazón Clark

    You were in the NAVY longer than I have been alive. Thank You for your service, Admiral! Fair winds and following seas!

  • tom reese

    RIP Sir.

  • Marcd30319

    A following sea as you cross the bar.

  • Leroy

    CBS News is reporting the following:

    “Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, who oversaw U.S. Navy forces in the Middle East, was found dead Saturday in his residence in Bahrain, officials said. Defense officials told CBS News they are calling it an “apparent suicide.” ”

    Sad. Last time I can remember this happening with a Flag Officer was Adm. Boorda, CNO under President Clinton. Richarson needs to get the word out to all personnel, no matter what their rank. Seek help if you need to.

    Condolences to the family.

    • Rocco


      • Leroy

        If it can happen to an Admiral (and we know it did happen with Adm. Boorda, a mustang, a good man) then it can happen to anyone. If indeed Adm. Stearney did succumb to this illness, it’s time to do what all Navy leaders are taught to do from day one – go take care of your people!

        Richardson needs to have a serious discussion about this, to include letting sailors and commissioned officers know what Navy policy is about how psychological treatment will/will not effect your career (not that career ever takes precedence over your life for God’s sake). I’ll bet that and embarrassment (that needs to STOP) also stops people from seeking treatment. That’s old-school. I don’t know what policy is, but Adm. Richardson needs to address this. Again, it’s “take care of your people” time. That’s what the CNO needs to do. ASAP!

        Of course Roc, I don’t need to tell you this. You know all this very well. Taking care of your people. Watching out for your shipmates. You did that for years!

        • Rocco

          Admiral Boorda was aboard the Fid!!

        • PolicyWonk

          Sadly, in the years I’ve been doing volunteer work to help disabled vets get (and keep!) the benefits they earned the hard way, the most difficult thing to figure out was how to convince these wonderful guys (all the folks I’ve worked with) to get the help they need.

          Physical medical care and benefits are one thing – getting them the help they needed to manage their PTSD was very difficult. Usually, once they started talking to others who’d been-there/done-that, and had gotten help themselves, we had more success.

          So much of the problem was cultural, and for quite a while people were penalized for admitting they had PTSD, etc. That aspect of the culture was (and still is) hard to kill.

  • DaSaint

    Condolences and prayers for his family, close friends and colleagues.
    Fair winds and following seas!

  • Michael Lopez

    Sad, Fair winds and following seas Admiral. May God bless your family in this difficult time.

  • Alpha Kilo

    Blue skies and following seas may God be in charge with your family during this difficult time.Finally when something of this magnitude happens is a sign of smoke elsewhere which may end up with fire . Its also a sign of troubled chain of command of US Armed Forces in the 22nd century . Just few years ago a USAF Brig General in Alska overseeing the F-22 fleet decided to go this way .

  • James Mcdonough


  • Marcd30319

    I think the rush to judgement about Admiral Scott Stearney’s death is unfortunate given the fact that it is under investigation. Only CBS is reporting an “apparent suicide” and only the New York Post has seen fit to repeat this allegation. Until that investigation is completed, no one knows what happened other than Vice Admiral Stearney is dead.

    I also find it disturbing how certain posters manage to turn a tragic event into a bizarre occasion to go full troll. A man who served his country well has died. His family is mourning his death and their loss. Our country and the navy has lost an important person in a critical post.

    Any comments that try to make light of this or go troll is just wrong. Show some respect for the dead and consideration for their family. Fortunately, most comments thus far have been respectful. but a few really rankle.

    • Rocco

      Kudos the man started his career during my tenure!!

    • Duane

      Talking about suicide when the facts suggest it did occur is not making light of suicide, nor is it a slur. It is not a scurrilous “accusation” unless the intent of the writer is to smear, which seems unlikely in the CBS report. It is very likely that the same unnamed “US defense official” who talked to the writer of this article also talked to the writer of the CBS news reporting.

      Keeping suicide “hush hush” tends to contribute to social misunderstandings about suicide, and how often it occurs, and what motivates someone to do it. Thus making it harder to prevent suicides through social understanding and counseling.

      It has long been part of the western Christian culture to treat suicide as a mortal sin and a gross failing in and of itself, rather than as an act of honor (as it is so treated in other cultures around the world – the proper thing to do when someone has failed at some important task), or the act of a mentally depressed person who is in need of counseling. So the western culture says “cover it up”. But the western culture is sometimes wrong-headed.

      Respecting the dead does not require covering up the circumstances of their death.

      • Rocco

        Why are you responding to Marc for what he posted is all that’s really needed Duane!! Unless you are guilty of such?? And not an expert on the subject as tragic it is!!

        • Duane

          I am responding to him because this is a comments page. That’s what the little “reply” button is for, which you obviously know. It is called a conversation.

          It doesn’t take an expert to state with confidence that the prior commenter was responding in such a way as to make uninformed snap judgements (i.e., that the CBS newswriter was engaged in intentional baseless speculation harmful to the deceased and his family). In fact, the CBS writer was told what the writer of this post was told by the same DOD spokesman.

          • Marcd30319

            Like I said, this posting by me was directed specifically at “nate” and ShepZC, and not to you. Also, acting snippy doesn’t win arguments or gain allies.

            Commenting on a homicide case before an investigation has been completed is just plain wrong — wrong to the victim’s family and in this case, wrong for the navy and this news blog.

          • Rocco

            You mean like the one you block off those on here that always disagree with you!!

        • Duane

          It is also worth noting that since 2014, suicide has become the leading cause of death for all US military members. It is a big deal that people don’t like to acknowledge or discuss. High profile cases like this can shine a light on a growing problem.

          • Marcd30319

            All too true, but again, until we know for certain, it is wrong to characterize this death as a suicide until an investigation is completed. To do otherwise is to jump to conclusions and rush to judgement.

          • Rocco

            Really well I can say that out of my 3 deployments at least 1 sailor committed suicide, & one was a friend!!

      • Marcd30319

        My posting was directed specifically at “nate” and to a lesser degree, ShepZC and his/her creepy query about a photo of the late admiral’s family.

        I do not recall any mention of suicide in the initial reportage of this article which, given the ongoing investigation, is both unfortunate and premature.

        The unnamed “US defense official” responsible for this sourcing performed an inexcusable disservice to the admiral’s family and the Navy be allowing this speculation to become a part of the narrative while an investigation is still going on.

        There is no evidence of a coverup, but there is a rush to judgement that I strongly suggest we resist until the investigation is completed and all of the facts have been released by the appropriate authorities.

        • Rocco


        • Duane

          duplicate comment

        • Duane

          See – there you go again, making judgments without facts or even a rational basis.

          I doubt very much that the unnamed DOD official was doing anything inexcusable, and he/she almost certainly had been given clearance from above as well as from the investigating agency. It would be a crime, actually, to engage in a cover-up of the Admiral’s death. Suicides are usually readily apparent, if not the reason for the suicide. Physical evidence and suicide notes are usually what lead investigators to a preliminary conclusion that suicide was likely The DOD spokesman also would not have gone public with that information unless the immediate survivor’s of the deceased were already so notified.

          Stop jumping to conclusions and making uninformed snap judgments.

          • Rocco

            Something you always do!!

          • Marcd30319

            For all your admonishments about “making judgments without facts or even a rational basis,” unless you have some insider knowledge, your entire post is based exclusively on speculation and assumptions not in evidence on the official record.

            CBS News reported the “apparent suicide” of Vice Admiral Stearney leaked by anonymous “Defense officials” within six hours after the announcement of the admiral’s death. Official notification of next of kin was problematic at that juncture.

            Suggestions of a cover-up is a non sequitur since there is an official investigation.

            Also, if family considerations prompted a “a preliminary conclusion that suicide was likely” then why was this leaked to CBS News so soon after the announcement of Vice Admiral Stearney?

            Stop jumping to conclusions and making uninformed snap judgments.

            Based on your own posting, perhaps you should follow your own advice.

            Let’s not jump to conclusions and rush to judgment based upon anonymous
            sources, rumors, and speculations. Let the official investigation make
            its conclusion which will be open and transparent. How is this not unreasonable in fairness to the family.

        • Marcd30319

          For what it’s worth, it looks like both “gentlemen” (nate and ShepZC) and their posts have been deleted. I am not a big fan of that action, but it seemed warranted.

  • thebard3

    I always enjoyed spirited discussions with posters here. This one shows the true colors of some that I am less likely to communicate with in the future. Whether accidental, natural cause, suicide or murder, nobody here has an idea of events involved. Maybe later the conspiracy theorists and trolls can inject their opinions but right now it’s a tragedy for his family and since I don’t know anything factual I’ll only say “Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.”

    • Rocco

      Kudos! Well said & well received!😇⚓

  • CaptainParker

    Truly unfortunate. However, I throw this out in the hope that it will be refuted beyond reasonable doubt. Any possibility here of a link to the “Fat Leonard” scandal?

    • Donald Carey

      My 1st thought was Fat Leonard.

  • People, he served well, and he died, fair winds and a following sea Admiral. The rest of you stop with the typing and respect a sailor with a life well lived. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Ret.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Sad. May he RIP.

  • Centaurus

    This is BAD

  • Norman S Stahl

    This article is sparse on information. What makes the investigators so sure it is a suicide? Did he leave a note? Was he despondent? There can’t be very many Vice Admirals in the Navy; how could the other 3 & 4 stars not seen signs? How did he die? Drug overdose? Gunshot? Hanging?

    • Rocco

      You obviously want speculation !! Gunshot ….No because someone would of heard it. Vise admirals are guarded by a Marine guard 24-7!! Not many vice Admirals…. Not really.

      • Donald Carey

        Gunshots can be muffled.

        • Rocco

          Ohhh of course!! So what’s an admiral doing with a silencer???

          • Donald Carey

            Any competent high ranking officer can have pretty much anything they want. If he’d wanted one, he would have had one, besides, a small caliber gun plus a few pillows along with the TV on loud would have sufficed. (But you already knew that.)

          • Rocco

            You sure about that!! I don’t speculate!! Sure I could imagine…… What ever!! It’s sad . However I don’t need a A. ..S Hole like you that’s an irritant!!

          • Donald Carey

            How dare I think for myself! I should abase myself before your supreme highness!
            IN YOUR DREAMS!

          • Rocco

            What ever troll!! GFYS!!!
            And change your first name to Harry!!!……Get it!!

          • Donald Carey

            Harry Caray the MLB player? No, but my grandfather is Max Carey – MLB Hall of Fame (he didn’t make millions, but no MLB player did in the 20’s).
            Or did you mean Hari Kari – (not very original, I’ve heard it before).

  • The area he served was very intense, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. Knowing what the Saudis are doing in Yemen and having to assist them or at the very least having to bite your tongue would certainly be trying but who knows what drove him to such great despair.

  • Alex Andrite

    “If it can happen to an Admiral (and we know it did happen with Adm.
    Boorda, a mustang, a good man) then it can happen to anyone.”

    Listen People , please … IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE !
    E1 -> O million and one.
    Harms Way has many Doors, Dark Alleyways, Endless Mazes of Confusion and Hopelessness.
    When, if, we come Home ………
    Please …..