ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy announced Thursday it is re-establishing U.S. 4th Fleet, which will have purview over waters in the Caribbean as well as in Central and South America.

“U.S. Fourth Fleet will be dual-hatted with the existing Commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO), currently located in Mayport, Fla.,” a Navy news release said.

As of July 1, the fleet will be in charge of Navy ships, aircraft and submarines conducting missions that include counter-narcoterrorism, bilateral training and humanitarian assistance, the Navy news release said.

“U.S. Fourth Fleet has been re-established to address the increased role of maritime forces in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of operations, and to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to regional partners,” the release said.

Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, now head of Naval Special Warfare Command, will be in charge of both 4th Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, making him the first Navy SEAL to be in charge of a numbered fleet, the release said.

Kernan will remain a two-star admiral, unlike the three-star admirals in charge of the other numbered fleets, because the Navy is limited by Congress on the number of three-star admirals that it can have, a Defense official said.

Fourth Fleet was initially established in 1943 to protect the United States against raiders and other threats, such as German U-Boats, Lt. Sean Robertson, a Navy spokesman, said.

The fleet was disestablished in 1950, when its responsibilities were taken over by U.S. 2nd Fleet, Robertson said.

Today, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command serves as the Navy’s component of U.S. Southern Command, he said. U.S Naval Forces Southern Command was established in 2000 and initially based in Puerto Rico, according to the command’s Web site.

In addition to being responsible for the Navy’s UNITAS deployments around South America and counternarcotics missions in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific, the command was heavily focused on community relations issues dealing with the Navy’s training range on Vieques Island, said Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon.

UNITAS are annual exercises between the U.S. Navy and local naval forces in South America, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

After President Bush announced in 2001 that the Navy would no longer use the training range, the command went from having a two-star admiral to a one-star admiral in command, and it eventually moved to Florida, Gordon said.

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