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U.S. tactical commander of Libya operation nominated to Pacific Command

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In this file photo, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, III, commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, talks to Sailors about their efforts in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III has been nominated for assignment as commander of U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, the Pentagon said today. 

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta announced the nomination by President Barack Obama.

Locklear was the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, established to command U.S. forces supporting the international response to unrest in Libya. He is currently commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe; commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa; and commander of Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy.

He is former commander of the destroyer USS Leftwich.

If approved by the U.S. Senate, Locklear would replace Adm. Robert F. Willard as head of U.S. Pacific Command, the oldest and largest of the military’s Unified Combatant Commands.

One of six such commands, U.S. Pacific Command encompasses half the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole, and including key nations such as Japan, North and South Korea, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

Willard, a former F-14 Tomcat aviator, became head of U.S. Pacific Command on Oct. 19, 2009. As a flag officer, Willard twice served on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, was deputy and chief of staff for U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, commanded Carrier Group Five aboard USS Kitty Hawk and commanded the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

In March 2005, Willard became the 34th Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and in May 2007, he assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

U.S. Pacific Command includes about 325,000 personnel, or about one-fifth of total U.S. military strength. U.S. Pacific Fleet includes six aircraft carrier strike groups, about 180 ships, 1,500 aircraft and 100,000 personnel.

The 36 nations that form the Asia-Pacific region are home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, 3,000 different languages, several of the world’s largest militaries, and five nations allied with the U.S. through mutual defense treaties.


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