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NAPLES, Italy — Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald took command of Allied Joint Force Command Naples/U.S. Naval Forces Europe during a ceremony Friday at the NATO base here.

Fitzgerald took the reins from Adm. Harry G. Ulrich, who is retiring after 35 years of service.

Fitzgerald comes to Naples from Washington, D.C., where he served as Navy staff director in the office of the chief of naval operations.

Speaking at the ceremony, Army Gen. John Craddock, supreme allied commander in Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, recounted a few of Ulrich’s accomplishments over the past 2½ years in Naples.

“He is indeed the orchestrator of many of the operations ongoing, from western Balkans operations … to the NATO training mission in Iraq, where he has taken a concept and put it into operations, and successfully parleyed that to over 2,500 Iraqis trained there and thousands of Iraqi leaders trained outside of that country.”

As Ulrich addressed the crowd, which included military and diplomatic staff, as well as family and friends, he recalled his time in Europe. Ulrich has served as commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet; commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO; and commander of Allied Joint Command Lisbon.

He said it was important to recognize how globalization has affected how the Navy operates.

“We essentially changed our focus from defense to security. … To bring security to our citizens will require as many partners as we can gather. Not only with military folks but with law enforcement agencies, commercial businesses, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and other international organizations.”

Ulrich noted that the alliance chose well in selecting Fitzgerald as his successor. A native of Winchester, Mass., Fitzgerald came into the Navy as a pilot in 1975. He served onboard a variety of aircraft carriers including USS John F. Kennedy, where he led the first U.S. Navy strike on Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

He also worked as the assistant commander for NATO Operation Deny Flight in 1993, as well as serving as executive assistant to the supreme allied commander of Europe from 1996 to 1998. He said his top priorities with NATO will be the continuing operations in Kosovo, and with the U.S. Navy to continue the Africa partnership initiatives.

“NATO will be in Naples for a long time to come,” Fitzgerald said. “Through NATO, Joint Force Command Naples is making a difference as is evident in our roles in the Balkans, in Iraq and at sea in Operation Active Endeavor. …

“Together our nations are delivering the tools necessary to build the capacity to promote good will and bridge the gap between insecurity and stability. It’s an incredibly important mission. There really is much work ahead.”

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The Italian Bersaglieri played a “fanfara,” an Italian military fanfare performed at a run, during the change of command ceremony held

on the NATO base in Naples, Italy, on Friday. The ceremony passed command of U.S. Navy Europe to Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald.


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