By U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet held a change of command ceremony on board the command flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Sept. 7.
Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk was relieved by Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift at the ceremony.
"It has been the thrill of my career to briefly command in the best job of our Navy and watch this fleet in action. My heartfelt appreciation for the wonderful dedicated service, friendship, and support you all have provided," said Van Buskirk. "There is no better leader to guide 7th Fleet than Vice Adm. Scott Swift. His operational experience is unmatched, and his most recent job as the Pacific Command Operations Officer means that he is already attuned to all of the complex issues in this region."
Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised Van Buskirk for his outstanding leadership of the U.S. 7th Fleet during the past year.
Van Buskirk oversaw U.S. naval operations in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, encompassing more than 48 million square miles from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south, and from the International Date Line to the Indian Ocean. The area includes 35 maritime countries and the world's five largest foreign armed forces - China, Russia, India, North Korea and Republic of Korea (ROK). Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area - Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, ROK, Japan and Thailand.
During his tenure, Van Buskirk led U.S. 7th Fleet forces in the largest humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation in history, Operation Tomodachi. At its peak the Navy had 22 ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel dedicated to assisting Japan's Self Defense Forces in the search and recovery efforts.
Walsh presented Van Buskirk with the Distinguished Service Medal for his service.
"When I stood on this deck almost a year ago, my guidance to the Fleet was simple - maintain course and speed and execute the three persistent priorities that had served the Fleet so well: maximizing warfighting readiness, maritime partnerships, and force posture," said Van Buskirk. "I can say with complete confidence that our forces are ready, our forces are present throughout the theater, and our partnerships are stronger than they have ever been."
Swift, a native of San Diego, Calif., assumed command of 7th Fleet, following a tour as Director of Operations, U.S. Pacific Command.
"I assume command today full of confidence, born in the knowledge of how well 7th Fleet has been led by Adm. Walsh and Vice Adm. Van Buskirk," said Swift. "We are a global force for good. That truth is born out by Vice Adm. Van Buskirk as he has left the 7th Fleet area of responsibility a better place than what he found. I am confident we will do the same."
Van Buskirk's next assignment will be as deputy chief of Naval Operations for manpower, personnel, training and education in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Naval Personnel, in Arlington, Va.
There are 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and more than 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the 7th Fleet. This includes forces operating from bases in Japan and Guam and rotationally-deployed forces based in the United States. Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, is embarked aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The flagship commands and controls the fleet and fosters military-to-military relationships through scheduled port visits and military exercises.