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Navy Capt. Jeff Trussler took command Friday of Task Force 69 under the Navy’s 6th Fleet. Trussler assumed command from Rear Adm. Joe Leidig Jr.

Navy Capt. Jeff Trussler took command Friday of Task Force 69 under the Navy’s 6th Fleet. Trussler assumed command from Rear Adm. Joe Leidig Jr. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — When Navy Capt. Jeff Trussler heads to the Arctic Circle this month, the submariner will be leading an exercise involving surface ships and aircraft.

Trussler is part of the Navy’s streamlining efforts to have leaders in Europe command not only assets such as ships, submarines and aircraft, but also geographic areas, said Rear Adm. Joe Leidig, deputy commander of the Navy’s 6th Fleet.

After 14 months, Leidig on Friday relinquished command of Task Force 69, handing the reins of a command typically held by a two-star admiral to Trussler. The move brings Task Force 69 in line with four other task forces under the Navy’s 6th Fleet responsibility in Europe, Leidig said.

"What we’re trying to do here in U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Forces Europe is to align all of our task force commanders," Leidig said. "There are four other task force commanders, 63, 65, 67 and 68, all commanded by captains. So now, by having Task Force 69 commanded by a captain, all of our task forces will be at the same level of command," said Leidig, who also serves as commander of Submarine Group 8.

"In one part of the job, they are responsible with providing ships and airplanes and submarines in support of the 6th Fleet commander. We’ve also very recently aligned each of our task force commanders to be responsible for a geographic area in Europe and Africa."

Task Force 65, for example, commands surface ships in the region and is geographically responsible for Western and Central Africa. Task Force 67 commands maritime patrol aircraft, and the area from Eastern Africa to Western Russia. Task Force 69 is responsible for submarines, and countries along the northern rim of the Mediterranean and northern Europe.

Which is why Trussler is heading to the Arctic Circle for the third annual Northern Eagle exercise, typically between the U.S. and Russian navies. This year. the exercise will include the Norwegian navy, Trussler said.

The exercise will test sailors’ maritime interdiction operations and search and rescue operations, he said. The U.S. is sending the guided-missile frigate USS Elrod, and a P-3 aircraft, originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, but also used for search and rescue missions.


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