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The White House has nominated Rear Adm. Patrick Walsh to be the next commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command, and commander of U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain.

Walsh, who currently serves as director of the Navy Quadrennial Defense Review in the Pentagon, is scheduled to pin on a third star when he assumes his new duty station, possibly some time this month, Navy officials said.

The Pentagon announced Monday that Walsh was nominated to take over NAVCENT and 5th Fleet from Vice Adm. David Nichols, who has served as commander since October 2003.

“This is part of the normal change of command. [Vice] Adm. Nichols has completed his tour,” 5th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Leslie Hull-Ryde said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Manama.

Walsh’s third star and new job, however, are contingent on passage of his nomination by the U.S. Senate. No confirmation hearing has been scheduled for either October or November, according to the Senate Armed Service Committee’s Web site, though Hull-Ryde said he might assume the new job sometime in mid-October.

The Pentagon has not announced Nichols’ next duty station. He is not slated to retire, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence said from the Pentagon.

The small Middle Eastern country of Bahrain is home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees American warships and submarines operating in the Middle East region.

Over the past few years, sailors and Marines assigned to the command have trained and equipped Iraqi naval forces so that eventually an Iraqi navy can assume security duties for oil platforms off the southern Iraqi port city of Basra.

The Iraqi navy currently has six patrol boats, 700 sailors and about 400 marines, Nichols said in a September news briefing. Iraqi sailors currently help provide security on oil platforms, but officials expect that by November, they will provide a majority of their own security, he stated.

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