NAPLES, Italy — Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, a surface warfare officer from Maryland, assumed command of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, during a ceremony here Tuesday.
The two commands cover U.S. maritime operations in Europe and Africa, as well as NATO operations in southern Europe and the Balkans, and have been especially active in recent years. Operations related to Libya, Syria, refugees from North Africa and, most recently, European concerns over Russian actions in Ukraine, have all been run from the two commands, which share the same commander.
Ferguson served as vice chief of Naval Operations before coming to Naples. He relieves Adm. Bruce Clingan, a former F-14 Tomcat pilot who will retire in the fall.
Clingan’s service coincided with a series of high-profile operations in the theater, many of which continue today. Navy staff here provided options to the president for striking Syria in September of last year. His staff is running operations for disposal of Syrian chemical weapons components now taking place in the Mediterranean Sea, part of a deal for Syria to hand over the banned weapons and avoid airstrikes.Navy staff here also implemented plans to bring four guided-missile destroyers to a Navy base in Rota, Spain, as part of NATO’s ballistic missile defense shield. Two of the ships arrived this year, with the other two scheduled to arrive next year.
Clingan’s strengths in strategic planning — he was an author of the Pentagon’s recent Air-Sea Battle strategy — meshed well with the growing challenges in the theater, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan W. Greenert told the audience.
“Bruce has been the right man for the right leader here, in the right place at the right time,” Greenert said.
Ferguson said he hopes to continue the strong operational work of JFC Naples, one of two operational commands under NATO military headquarters in Mons, Belgium.
“I am committed to strengthening the alliance and working with our allies and partners to ensure we remain a positive force for stability and peace throughout the region,” he said.