US Pacific Fleet gets new commander

by Tommy Grant

Adm. Stephen Koehler assumed command of U.S. Pacific Fleet on Thursday.

Koehler relieved Adm. Samuel Paparo, who is slated to become the next leader of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, during a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

“There is no one more ready to lead this fleet,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who presided over the ceremony. “I am absolutely confident that you are the right person at the right time to lead our Sailors in the Indo-Pacific.”

Koehler, who commissioned in 1986 after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, became a designated naval aviator in 1989 and has logged more than 3,900 flight hours in F-14 Tomcat and F-18 E/F/G Super Hornets.

“You are looking at the world’s greatest warfighters sitting behind me,” Adm. John Aquilino, current commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said during the ceremony. “In the world’s most concerning theater, against our world’s most dangerous adversaries, what has been chosen to run this theater are our best warfighters. That is not by accident.”

He previously served as the commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship Bataan, aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Carrier Strike Group 9, as well as the executive officer of aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

Paparo is a TOPGUN graduate with more than 6,000 hours flying the F-14 Tomcat, the F-15 Eagle and the F/A-18 Super Hornet logged. He previously served as the commander of Carrier Strike Group 10 and commander of Carrier Air Wing 7 with the Eisenhower carrier strike group.

The Senate confirmed Paparo to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in February, who was nominated for the role in August. His nomination was one of the hundreds of military nominations stalled due to Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on confirmations because of his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

Tuberville’s hold on nominations concluded in December, but a backlog of work prevented the Senate Armed Services Committee from approving Paparo’s nomination until February.

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