Paparo Takes Command of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Cooper Now Leading U.S. 5th Fleet

May 6, 2021 4:52 PM
Vice Adm. Sam Paparo, left, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), is relieved by Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, right, during a change of command ceremony presided over by Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, onboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain, on May 5, 2021. US NAvy Photo

The former commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East is now leading the U.S. Pacific Fleet, according to the Navy.

Adm. Samuel Paparo took charge of the Hawaii-based command on Wednesday while handing over the leadership of U.S. 5th Fleet, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command to newly-promoted Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the former commander of Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, in a Wednesday ceremony in Bahrain.

“Under Sam’s leadership here at NAVCENT – measurable impact across the region – whether it was providing maritime security, close-air support for our ground forces or strategic deterrence, Sam’s command has been proactive, vigilant and highly successful,” U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said at the ceremony.
“Besides commanding coalition maritime operations in support of Operation Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve, Sam has been a driving force behind the growth and interoperability amongst several of our partners’ maritime forces, an essential task if we are going to build readiness and resiliency here in the region.”

Paparo has been in command of 5th Fleet since August and was nominated last year to take charge of PACFLEET from Adm. John Aquilino, who in turn took command of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Saturday.

“As partners, on any given day, we are promoting maritime security and providing reassurance to the critical shipping industry – protecting key trade routes through which 20 percent of the world’s commerce passes; providing rapid response in support of manmade and natural disasters; and projecting combat power from the sea in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel,” Paparo said during the ceremony.
“Leading this team as the NAVCENT, 5th Fleet, CMF, and Multi-National Task Force commander is the single greatest honor and challenge of my career.”

Paparo is a career fighter pilot, flying F-14 Tomcats, F/A-18 Hornets and F-15C Eagles as an exchange officer with the Air Force. At sea, he commanded Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 in Yokosuka, Japan, and Carrier Air Wing 7, embarked with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group.

Paparo took command of PACFLEET before arriving in Hawaii and is due to the command in the next few days, a Navy official told USNI News on Thursday.

Cooper was nominated last month and confirmed to lead 5th Fleet just last week. He will now lead U.S. naval forces in the Middle East as ground commanders in Afghanistan are relying on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), its air wing and escorts to cover the U.S. withdrawal. He’s a career surface warfare officer who commanded destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59) and cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG-64), Expeditionary Strike Group 7, U.S. Naval Forces, Korea and served as the chief of legislative affairs for the service before leading Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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