GAETA, Italy — Marine Col. Robert “Barry” Cronin is a cop-turned-advocate.

The former police officer, both military and civilian, heads the Combined Task Force 68, headquartered in Gaeta, in which he and his staff of four serve as advocates for sailors and Marines who are “below the line forces” in Europe.

These are forces defined as servicemembers not belonging to ships, subs or air wings within the Sixth Fleet command, he said.

“We are the point of contact when they’re in theater. If they need assistance in theater, I’m their advocate,” Cronin said. “And it cuts both ways. Part of the charter states that I ensure that whatever they’re doing is in concert with long-term global objectives of the 6th Fleet commander.”

These forces include, for example, Seabees throughout the region, the Marine Corps Security Forces in Rota, Explosive Ordnance Mobile Unit 8 in Sigonella, Sicily, and Mobile Mine Assembly Unit 5, also in Sicily.

CTF-68 is a result of the Navy’s recent transformation, in which some units were transferred from Commander Naval Force Europe to 6th Fleet.

“Initially, before we were shifted to Sixth Fleet, we didn’t have a voice” within the command, said Lt. Cmdr. John Lennox, operations officer with EOD Mobile Unit 8 in Sigonella. Now, tactical control of these Marines and sailors is faster and more effective with a task force commander, Lennox, 41, said.

“What it’s done for us is given us a voice and a go-to person … and streamlined the chain-of-command for us.”

Company leaders of Marine Corps Security Forces Company-Europe in Rota, Spain, are in daily contact with CTF-68, coordinating requirements for missions such as maritime security, said executive officer Capt. Mark Zarnecki.

“We definitely have someone dedicated and [involved] in the planning [of missions] and trying to support you,” Zarnecki, 28, said.

CTF-68, which started in July, provides fleet-level accountability, both for the commander to keep tabs on all people and units under his command, and for the individuals and units, Cronin, 52, said.

The 26-year veteran is a bit of a housekeeper, from making sure the below the line forces have the security needed to accomplish missions to processing awards rapidly, “within days,” Cronin said, instead of having a member wait what can be months to be recognized by a parent command back home.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now