Former enlisted sailor takes command at US naval base in southern Japan
Stars and Stripes October 3, 2023
A Navy captain with a background in nuclear reactors and antisubmarine warfare is now in charge of Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, homeport of an expeditionary strike group led by the USS America.
Capt. Michael Fontaine, a Michigan native, assumed command Friday at Sasebo from Capt. David Adams, who steered the base through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I set out to build a high-performance organization, an organization that does what’s right for the right reasons, an organization that responds to our nation’s needs,” Adams said in a video of the change-of-command ceremony posted on the base Facebook page.
Adams took command Sept. 25, 2020, in the depths of the pandemic.
A year and five months later, U.S. Forces Japan in January 2022 ordered all Defense Department personnel, including civilian employees, to stay at home for 10 days to curb a wave of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Sasebo Naval Base that month reported 553 new cases of COVID-19, surpassing by four times the number of cases the base reported the preceding two years.
The stay-at-home order came about after reports of Americans exempt from travel bans in Japan bringing the virus with them on their return from travel abroad.
A native of Beaumont, Texas, Adams said COVID-19’s impact on military commands in Japan required “a heavy cleanup” and stringent effort to get clear “of those restrictions that were affecting all of our lives.”
Adams received the Legion of Merit at the ceremony from Rear Adm. Carl Lahti, commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan and Navy Region Japan, and the Sasebo Honorary Citizen for International Goodwill Award from Sasebo Mayor Daisuke Miyajima.
Nagasaki prefecture Gov. Kengo Oishii congratulated Adams and welcomed Fontaine to Japan.
“To Captain Adams, on behalf of the people of Nagasaki prefecture, I wish you and your family good health, happiness and success at your new place,” Oishii said, according to the release. “I would like to extend a warm welcome to Captain Michael Fontaine. We are looking forward to seeking further friendship under your new leadership,” he said.
Sasebo Naval Base on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is home to more than 7,400 sailors, civilian employees and family members. It’s the homeport for the amphibious assault ship America, the lead ship of the America Amphibious Ready Group.
Fontaine comes to Sasebo from the Learning and Development Division at Naval Education and Training Command. He was also the director of current operations at the U.S. 2nd Fleet.
Fontaine enlisted in 1995 as a machinist’s mate, earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at North Carolina State University and was commissioned through the Nuclear Enlisted Commissioning Program, according to his official biography. He holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University.
He has also served as an antisubmarine warfare and combat information center officer aboard the frigate USS Reuben James and reactor controls division officer on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, among other assignments, according to the Navy.