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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy’s 7th Fleet held a change of command ceremony in Yokosuka, Japan, on Wednesday aboard its flagship USS Blue Ridge.

Vice Adm. Scott Swift replaced Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk in commanding the fleet’s 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and more than 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

During the ceremony, Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised the outgoing commander for his “outstanding leadership” during his tenure, according to a Navy news release.

Van Buskirk leaves to serve as deputy chief of naval operations for manpower, personnel, training and education in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Naval Personnel, in Arlington, Va.

“My guidance to the Fleet was simple — maintain course and speed and execute the three persistent priorities that had served the Fleet so well: maximizing warfighting readiness, maritime partnerships, and force posture,” Van Buskirk is quoted in the release. “I can say with complete confidence that our forces are ready, our forces are present throughout the theater, and our partnerships are stronger than they have ever been.”

Van Buskirk was credited at the ceremony with oversight of 7th Fleet forces during Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. humanitarian and disaster relief operation following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, the release said.

At the height of relief efforts, the Navy had 22 ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel assisting in search and recovery efforts.

Swift assumes command following a tour as Director of Operations, U.S. Pacific Command.

From staff reports

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