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Vice Admirals Doug Crowder, left, and John Bird salute during the 7th Fleet Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Bird relieved Crowder in a well-attended event aboard the USS Blue Ridge.

Vice Admirals Doug Crowder, left, and John Bird salute during the 7th Fleet Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Bird relieved Crowder in a well-attended event aboard the USS Blue Ridge. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Vice Admirals Doug Crowder, left, and John Bird salute during the 7th Fleet Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Bird relieved Crowder in a well-attended event aboard the USS Blue Ridge.

Vice Admirals Doug Crowder, left, and John Bird salute during the 7th Fleet Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Bird relieved Crowder in a well-attended event aboard the USS Blue Ridge. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Booker, center, plays the French horn in the 7th Fleet band for the Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Outgoing commander Vice Admiral Doug Crowder called the band the fleet's "secret weapon."

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Booker, center, plays the French horn in the 7th Fleet band for the Change of Command ceremony Saturday. Outgoing commander Vice Admiral Doug Crowder called the band the fleet's "secret weapon." (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Wylie, top left, plays the piccolo in the 7th Fleet band for the Change of Command ceremony Saturday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Wylie, top left, plays the piccolo in the 7th Fleet band for the Change of Command ceremony Saturday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Ceremonial flags fluttered, as did the hand-held fans Saturday, when new 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. John Bird received a warm welcome from his colleagues — and the 90-degree weather.

Aboard the USS Blue Ridge, Bird’s flag was raised while outgoing commander Vice Adm. Doug Crowder’s was lowered, as Crowder heads to a Navy Staff position as the deputy chief of Naval operations at the Pentagon.

7th Fleet change-of-command ceremonies are always "bittersweet," said Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Bob Willard, who was the function’s keynote speaker.

"This is the most important numbered fleet in the world," Willard said, thanking Crowder for his time and effort as fleet commander, while enumerating the qualities of Bird, who was serving as Willard’s deputy commander and chief of staff when he received the 7th Fleet post.

Willard called Bird a man of "vast intelligence, tireless drive, integrity and vision."

Bird also works a lot, he said.

"He has a saying: ‘If you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother showing up on Sunday,’ " Willard said.

For his part, Bird said called his new post "a dream come true." Before his Pacific Fleet job in Hawaii, Bird commanded Yokosuka’s Submarine Group 7.

"There is no better job; there is no better team; and there is no better place to be stationed," Bird said. "We had no idea we would return so quickly under such ideal circumstances."

7th Fleet is the world’s largest forward-deployed naval force, with 21 ships deployed to Japan and Guam and an area of responsibility of 52 million square miles of ocean.


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