Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead announced on 28 April 2008 the reestablishment of U.S. 4th Fleet and assigned Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, serving as Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, as its first commander. "Reconstituting the Fourth Fleet recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere, and sends a strong signal to all the civil and military maritime services in Central and Latin America," said Roughead. "Aligning the Fourth Fleet along with our other numbered fleets and providing the capabilities and personnel are a logical execution of our new Maritime Strategy."
U.S. 4th Fleet is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, and Central and South America and the surrounding waters. Located in Mayport, Fla., and dual-hatted with Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO), U.S. 4th Fleet reestablishment addresses the increased role of maritime forces in the SOUTHCOM area of focus, and demonstrates U.S. commitment to regional partners.
U.S. 4th Fleet was original established in 1943 as one of the original numbered fleets, and was given a specific mission. During World War II, the U.S. needed a command in charge of protecting against raiders, blockade runners and enemy submarines in the South Atlantic. U.S. 4th Fleet was disestablished in 1950 when U.S. 2nd Fleet took over its responsibilities.
Initially, the new 4th Fleet was headquartered with COMUSNAVSO and take advantage of the existing infrastructure, communications support and personnel already in place in Mayport. As a result, U.S. 4th Fleet will not involve an increase in forces assigned in Mayport. "This is a significant change and presents us the opportunity to garner the right resources for the missions we run for Southern Command," said Rear Adm. James W. Stevenson Jr., Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO). "As a numbered fleet, we will be in a better position to ensure the Combatant Commander has the right assets available when needed."
U.S. 4th Fleet retains responsibility as COMUSNAVSO, the Navy component command for SOUTHCOM. Its mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, Theater Security Cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.
U.S. Fourth Fleet is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the SOUTHCOM area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, and Central and South America and surrounding waters. No new permanently-stationed vessels will be assigned to Mayport at part of the re-establishment. No vessels or aircrafts will be permanently assigned to U.S. Fourth Fleet as part of the re-establishment. U.S. Fourth Fleet is an organizational fleet staffed to fulfill a planning and coordination mission.
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