A Navy fighter pilot who less than five months ago became head of Navy forces in the Middle East has been selected as the next commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced today that President Donald Trump nominated Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino for the rank of four-star admiral and the important Hawaii job at a time of concern over fleet operations and safety in the region and extreme tensions with North Korea.
Adm. Scott Swift, the current commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, was seen as a shoo-in as the next head of U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith — until he was told he was being passed over for the job by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, in the wake of a series of Navy ship collisions in the Western Pacific last year.
Swift in late September announced he planned to retire — with no date given.
Aquilino, a native of Huntington, N.Y., graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984. He entered flight training and earned his wings in August 1986. He served in numerous operational fighter squadrons flying the F-14 A/B Tomcat and the F-18 C/E/F Hornet, his Navy biography states. Fleet assignments included the Ghostriders of Fighter Squadron 142 and the Black Aces of Fighter Squadron 41.
Aquilino made extended deployments in support of Operation Deny Flight, Deliberate Force, Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
In his most recent job, which he assumed on Sept. 19, Aquilino was commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and commander of Fifth Fleet and Maritime Forces Bahrain.
The world’s largest fleet command, U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles and nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean.
Pacific Fleet consists of about 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft and more than 130,000 sailors and civilians.
The Pacific Fleet staff reports administratively to the chief of naval operations and operationally to the U.S. Pacific Command.