U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), an Echelon II command, supports all naval operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).
The U.S. Navy established its first command in the Middle East January 1, 1949. Known as the Persian Gulf Area Command, its forces consisted of two destroyers and a small seaplane tender. Shore support was provided by buildings rented from the British Royal Navy at its installation HMS Juffair in the Gulf state of Bahrain. Bahrain, like many Gulf emirates, was a British protectorate at the time.
The Persian Gulf Area Command was renamed the Middle East Force August 16, 1949. No permanent flagship was assigned, so duty rotated between three former seaplane tenders: USS DUXBURY BAY, USS GREENWICH BAY, and USS VALCOUR. When Bahrain gained independence from the British in 1971, ownership of HMS Juffair reverted to the Bahraini government. Through special agreement with the Bahrainis, the Navy leased part of the old British base and expanded U.S. operations there. It is now known as Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
USS VALCOUR became the first permanent flagship for the Middle East Force in 1961 after an extensive overhaul and redesignation as a miscellaneous command ship. In July 1972, USS LA SALLE replaced VALCOUR as flagship. Middle East Force ships were the first U.S. military units to take action following the August 2, 1990, invasion of Kuwait when they began Maritime Interception Operations in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
In January 1991, with the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, the Middle East Force was absorbed into U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the Naval component of the U.S. Central Command. Central Command is responsible for all U.S. Military activity in the Middle East and eastern Africa. In the aftermath of the 1990/91 Gulf War, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command ships and those of the coalition partners undertook the largest mine clearing operation since World War II. Nearly 1,300 sophisticated sea mines of various types were swept from the Arabian Gulf, providing the safest passage for naval and merchant ships in decades.
The staff of NAVCENT moved ashore in Bahrain in 1993, and USS LA SALLE departed for overhaul and reassignment. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. FIFTH Fleet consist of as many as 25 ships and 15,000 Sailors and Marines. These forces typically include an aircraft carrier battle group, and amphibious ready group, surface combatants, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, logistics ships and a modest but highly effective fleet support activity.
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