U.S. naval forces in Bahrain received a new leader Monday, with Vice Adm. Mark Fox relieving Vice Adm. Bill Gortney as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet.

Fox, an aviator, most recently served as commander of Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

Gortney has been at the helm of the forward deployed naval forces since July 2008, overseeing the shifting of missions to address piracy. Capt. Richard Phillips of the commercial vessel Maersk Alabama was rescued from his captors during his tenure.

Also during that time, U.S. families were able to return to Bahrain after the Defense Department rescinded its five-year ban on accompanied tours imposed for security reasons. Coalition forces turned over the Khawr Amaya Oil Terminal to the Iraqi navy.

“In my two years here, I’ve seen our allies in the Gulf region come closer together, growing stronger together,” Gortney said in a Navy news

release following Monday’s change of command ceremony at the Navy’s base in Manama.

Gortney’s career was not marred by the resurfacing of a hazing scandal last year or by the Navy’s decision in September to reopen its probe of a

Bahrain-based canine unit and cases of violent attacks, sex crimes and other illegal activities between 2004 and 2006. The scandal led to the dismissal of the senior noncommissioned officer who led the canine division.

Gortney will report to the Pentagon, where he will serve as director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

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