SAN DIEGO, CA (STL.News) – US Navy, Vice Adm. John D. Alexander was relieved as Commander, U.S. Third Fleet (C3F), by Vice Adm. Scott D. Conn during a change of command ceremony held aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) while pierside at Naval Air Station North Island, Sept. 27.
During the ceremony, Alexander retired from active duty following 37 years of honorable naval service.
Newly appointed Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday presided over the ceremony.
“Vice Adm. Alexander brought urgency to Third Fleet, following in the footsteps of legends like Bull Halsey, Sam Gravely, and William P. Lawrence,” said Gilday. “His efforts to prepare our forces for the high-end fight, win without fighting, and sustain a ready force have focused the energies of a huge team towards maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
“Vice Adm. Conn’s wealth of operational experience in command at all levels and his exceptional leadership, exemplified by the peer-nominated Stockdale Award, make him exactly the right person to advance Third Fleet’s efforts even further,” Gilday continued.
As C3F, Alexander led the transition of a staff traditionally focused with force generation and training, to that of a fully-certified expeditionary Maritime Operations Center (MOC), capable of providing a second response option in conjunction with U.S. Seventh Fleet.
Charged with preparing, providing, and employing combat-ready naval forces, he and his staff oversaw, conducted, or participated in countless exercises and operational events to include Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2018, Northern Edge 2019, and the first of its kind Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise in and off the Alaskan coast.
“The people on my staff are some of the hardest working group of individuals I have ever had the pleasure to serve with,” said Alexander. “In 2017, we started Third Fleet’s transition to a more warfighting focus. We gave the staff a vision, and they delivered.”
Alexander also spoke to current and future challenges, saying the U.S. Navy remain the world’s most lethal naval fighting force.
“Let there be no doubt, Great Power Competition is back,” he said. “We must continue to maintain the technological edge to compete in the high-end fight. It is the key to our future lethality. We do this by remaining the dominant naval force across the globe.”
In addition to serving as 3rd Fleet’s 29th commander, he previously served as Director, Maritime Operations, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Commander, Battle Force U.S. 7th Fleet (CTF 70/CSG 5), forward deployed aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in Yokosuka, Japan; and as Assistant Commander for Career Management (PERS-4), Navy Personnel Command.
Other command tours include the “Black Ravens” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135; USS Juneau (LPD 10), forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan; and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
Alexander completed sea duty assignments as an A-6E bombardier/navigator with Attack Squadrons (VA) 165, VA-155 and VA-196. Additional operational tours included the staff of Cruiser Destroyer Group 3 as well as executive officer of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Ashore, he served as executive assistant to the director, Joint Staff; as aviation commander detailer (PERS-431); and as an A-6E instructor in VA-128.
Conn, a Lancaster, Penn., native and 1985 graduate of Pennsylanvia’s Millersville University, vowed to continue the hard work Alexander and the Third Fleet staff have done.
“My view is that individuals and organizations are either getting better or worse, they never stay the same,” he said. “We must continue to get better in all things we do. We will train hard, yet safe; we will send certified forces forward across the globe, and we will execute assigned missions professionally and boldly.”
Conn highlighted the importance of naval forces operating forward, and the necessity of maintaining strong relationships with allies, partners, and friends in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Together with our allies, partners, and friends, many of whom are represented here today, we will work to uphold international rules and norms in the maritime domain, provide a secure, safe and stable maritime environment, and ensure continued prosperity for all.”
Conn previously served as Director, Air Warfare on the staff of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Other command tours include Carrier Strike Group 4, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Carrier Air Wing 11, Strike Fighter Squadron 106, and Strike Fighter Squadron 136.
C3F leads naval forces in the Indo-Pacific region and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. C3F works in close coordination with U.S. 7th Fleet to provide commanders with capable, ready assets across the spectrum of military operations in the Pacific.