European edition, Saturday, May 5, 2007

NAPLES, Italy — Rear Adm. Jeffrey Fowler’s tenure in Naples was unusually short by Navy standards, but it was marked by several firsts.

Fowler brokered the first deployment of a nuclear submarine to participate in the nearly six-year-old maritime security operation dubbed Active Endeavor, noted Italy’s Vice Adm. Roberto Cesaretti, commander of Allied Maritime Component Command Naples. The operation — launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. — targets terrorists, human traffickers, and drug and weapons smugglers in the Mediterranean.

And Fowler commanded over the first real-time automatic data feed from a submerged vessel during the operation — all while overseeing operations of 12 submarine deployments from eight nations, Cesaretti boasted Friday at a ceremony to bid goodbye to Fowler and hello to his successor: Rear Adm. Charles “Joe” Leidig Jr.

In late April, the U.S. Senate confirmed Fowler as the new superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and promotion to the rank of vice admiral. Though he inherits a school recently plagued with reports of alcohol misuse and sexual misconduct among midshipmen, Fowler is accomplishing a lifelong dream of returning to his alma mater as its chief.

As the former chief recruiter for the Navy, he often churned out the Navy’s slogan “Accelerate your life,” Fowler told the crowd during Friday’s change of command, held seaside and under beautiful blue, clear skies at the Maritime Component Command’s headquarters on the Italian island of Nisida.

“Little did I know I’d be a living example of it in Naples,” he said.

If one thinks Fowler’s job in Europe was easy, Vice Adm. P. Stephen Stanley chided jokingly, think again — because running submarine programs in the Mediterranean wasn’t the sole job.

In fact, Fowler had six of them.

“Talk about split personality,” said Stanley, director for Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

Leidig now inherits from Fowler the stretched title of: director of Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet Plans and Operations; deputy 6th Fleet commander; commander of Submarines, Allied Naval Forces South; commander of Submarine Group Eight; commander of Task Force 69; commander of Task Force 164.

In keeping with protocol of change-of-command ceremonies (so as to not steal the limelight from the departing leader), Leidig kept his remarks short and to the point: asking foremost to do something soon his predecessor didn’t get to accomplish during his nine months on station: “I’m asking for the opportunity to get under way on a submarine.”

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