New commander takes reins of Task Force 72 at Misawa
September 9, 2005
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Misawa has a new one-star — on the Navy side of the house, that is.
Rear Adm. Arthur J. Johnson took the reins of Patrol and Reconnaissance Force 5th/7th Fleet from Rear Adm. Kenneth W. Deutsch in a change-of-command ceremony Wednesday morning at the U.S. Navy’s northernmost installation in Japan.
Guest speaker Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, U.S. 7th Fleet commander, welcomed Johnson and his family to Japan and Naval Air Facility Misawa — which is part of Misawa Air Base — while thanking Deutsch for his two years commanding Navy antisubmarine and maritime surveillance aircraft operations in the Pacific, Asia and Middle East.
“The combination of your leadership and talent, and the dedication of your crews, has sent a clear and consistent powerful message that Task Force 72 is ready to go,” Greenert said.
Patrol and Reconnaissance Force 7th Fleet, also known as Task Force 72, operates in the Pacific west of the international dateline to the east of Africa, excluding the Middle East. Patrol and Reconnaissance Force 5th Fleet —- or Task Force 57 —- operates in the Middle East area, including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Oman.
As Patrol and Reconnaissance Force 7th/5th Fleet commander, Johnson will oversee Navy P-3 Orion and EP-3 Aries II aircraft deployed to those vast areas.
Greenert said the individual task forces’ combat and humanitarian roles, and the P-3, are key to fostering both regional stability and partnerships with current and potential allies.
“You are our symbol of strength, our symbol of compassion,” he said, noting the P-3s’ recent work with tsunami relief. “P-3s are in greater demand by combatant commanders than any other platform … there just aren’t enough of you out there. So you’re important, very important.”
Johnson also assumes from Deutsch command of Fleet Air Western Pacific at Naval Air Facility Atsugi near Tokyo.
Chief of Naval Operations Mike Mullen handpicked Deutsch to serve on his Pentagon staff.
During his speech Wednesday, Deutsch thanked his Japanese counterparts for their support.
“It has truly been a wonderful and humbling experience,” he said. “You have made a lifelong friend in me and a lifelong fan of your country.”
Deutsch also praised Greenert’s leadership: “A better leader I have not seen and I’ve seen a bunch of them over the years. Frankly, I enjoyed the challenges you laid at my desk,” he said, adding that his command was better off for “your vision, guidance and challenges.”
Johnson is reporting to Misawa from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, where he was the U.S. Pacific Command representative, Guam/Commander, U.S. Naval Base Guam.
“To be part of the 7th Fleet team is analogous to a journeyman baseball player being called up to the big leagues,” he said. “There is no higher calling for a Navy professional.”
A native of Burlington, Vt., Johnson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979. He’s deployed extensively throughout the Indian Ocean and Pacific region, according to his biography.