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Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, salutes Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday aboard the USS La Salle in Gaeta, Italy.
Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, salutes Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday aboard the USS La Salle in Gaeta, Italy. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, salutes Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday aboard the USS La Salle in Gaeta, Italy.
Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, salutes Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday aboard the USS La Salle in Gaeta, Italy. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Sailors aboard the USS La Salle observe the change-of-command ceremony.
Sailors aboard the USS La Salle observe the change-of-command ceremony. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe.
Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the new 6th Fleet commander and commander of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, who was called the "finest operational commander in our Navy today" by Adm. Gregory Johnson.
Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, who was called the "finest operational commander in our Navy today" by Adm. Gregory Johnson. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
The change-of-command ceremony.
The change-of-command ceremony. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

GAETA, Italy — Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III assumed command of the 6th Fleet during a ceremony Tuesday aboard the USS La Salle.

Ulrich relieved Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, who is retiring, before crewmembers on the 6th Fleet flagship and dozens of dignitaries and military and community leaders.

Ulrich also takes command of Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, NATO Southern Region’s primary maritime reaction force.

Fry had assumed command Oct. 23, 2001, for an area of responsibility extending across the Mediterranean Sea, including the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Black seas. He leaves with the belief that the Navy is well-positioned for the future.

In an interview after the ceremony, Fry said he doesn’t foresee many changes for naval forces in Europe during a time when other services are looking at moving their forces.

“The Navy … is postured very, very well just the way they are, and whatever changes are made in Europe, I think on the Navy side of things are probably not going to be great,” he said.

In his keynote address, Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Allied Forces Southern Europe, commended Fry for leading naval forces in the Mediterranean during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I never saw a better wartime commander,” Johnson said, calling Fry the “finest operational commander in our Navy today.”

On Tuesday, Fry was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and his wife, Mary, was honored by Johnson with the Superior Public Service Award.

Fry said that after 32 years in the Navy, he planned to relax awhile in his home state of Pennsylvania before deciding what type of job to pursue as a civilian.

Ulrich, a Southampton, Pa., native, most recently served on the staff of the chief of Naval Operations as the director of the Surface Warfare Division.

His most recent sea tour was as commander, Destroyer Group 12 and the Enterprise battle group. Ulrich has a master’s degree in physics and studied national security policy at the National War College.

“It goes without explanation that this assignment … is the most sought-after job in the Navy,” said Ulrich, who then related a personal story about his wife, Mary, and his Italian mother-in-law.

His mother-in-law told him nearly 30 years ago that he would do well in his Navy career and would bring her daughter back to Italy when he became 6th Fleet commander.

“Always listen to your … mother-in-law,” he said.

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