Vowing to 'stay the course,' Kelly takes helm of CNFJ
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — With the raising and lowering of a flag, Rear Adm. Frederic R. Ruehe handed over command of Naval Forces Japan on Thursday to Rear Adm. James D. Kelly in a ceremony aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.
“This is now the best job in the Navy,” Kelly said after assuming command. To Ruehe he added, “All I have to do, I know, is follow your lead and stay the course.”
Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Gary Roughead attended the ceremony, with U.S. Forces Japan commander Gen. Bruce Wright and U.S. and Japanese government and military leaders from across Japan and the region.
Roughead said any change of command always entails an eager new officer waiting to take command and a more somber one “reluctant to let go of that gift.”
In his speech, Roughead first commended the strong relationship between the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
He praised Ruehe for bolstering that tie along with relations with Japanese communities and leaders. Ruehe has said accomplishments of his tenure include negotiating land-return agreements, befriending many local politicians and improving bilateral training and cooperation with the Japanese maritime forces.
Mayors of several cities that host Navy bases attended the ceremony, including Sasebo Mayor Akira Mitsutake. In addition to Yokosuka, Ruehe has served in Sasebo and on Okinawa.
Politicians from Shimoda, Yamato, Hayama, Hokkaido and Japan’s national government attended, as well as Maritime Self-Defense Force leaders.
“This ceremony offers an opportunity, frankly, for us to say ‘thank you’ to so many people,” Ruehe said.
Roughead presented Ruehe with a Legion of Merit with a gold star for his “visionary leadership,” resourcefulness and efficiency, and presented Ruehe’s wife, Cathy, with a meritorious public service award.
While in command, Ruehe helped administer the Navy’s conversion of shore commands to a streamlined, centrally organized installation command.
He praised his chief of staff, command master chief and commanders of the installations making up CNFJ: fleet activities Yokosuka, Sasebo and Okinawa; Atsugi and Misawa naval air facilities; and Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia. The command also provides shore services and support for the 7th Fleet and Pacific Fleet.
In his speech, Kelly outlined his three future priorities: increasing manpower in the shore commands, working with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and aiding the Navy’s transformation plans.
Kelly is the 30th person to hold the position of commander, Naval Forces Japan.
Ruehe will assume command of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, based in Norfolk, Va.