BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Michael E. Boyle relieved Rear Adm. Brad Cooper as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea (CNFK) during a change of command ceremony at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet base.
The ceremony marked the 36th time CNFK has changed command since its establishment July 1, 1957.
"CNFK staff and ROK Fleet staff have labored successfully to make this truly a combined headquarters," said General Vincent K. Brooks, commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea. "This is the forerunner model for the future of the ROK-US Alliance, not only ready to fight together, but living together everyday, side by side."
During his speech, Brooks emphasized CNFK's importance to the U.S. and ROK alliance to ensure continued security in the region as well as Cooper's contribution.
"Admiral Cooper was the first to take command here in Busan after the relocation of CNFK headquarters," said Brooks. "He, his staff and the ROK Fleet Staff have labored successfully to make this a truly combined headquarters."
During the ceremony, Cooper was presented the Legion of Merit by Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, for his achievements while serving as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea.
Cooper was also presented with the Order of National Security Merit Cheon-su Medal by the Chief of Naval Operations, ROK Navy, Adm. Um Hyun-seong, in a ceremony at Commander, Republic of Korea Navy headquarters on Jan. 9.
After receiving the award, Cooper spoke to the crowd of more than 200 U.S. - ROK military personnel and civilian guests and credited the Sailors throughout Korea for the command's success.
"You are an amazing group," said Cooper. "I have never served with a team so intensely dedicated, loyal and productive. Our alliance has always been strong, but because of you, I can definitely say that we are stronger than we have ever been."
Cooper closed his remarks by thanking his staff for their support and highlighting the long lasting U.S.-ROK friendships he made while serving at CNFK.
"For the many exceptional ROK Navy leaders here today, thank you for your support and for your genuine friendship," said Cooper. "I'll be back to Korea soon and look forward to continue serving with you for years to come."
After his remarks, Cooper read his orders and officially transferred command to Boyle, who expressed his enthusiasm for his time in Korea and commitment to the enduring relationship between both navies.
"I look forward to continuing the momentum that CNFK has established," said Boyle. "I intend to build on existing initiatives by seeking out and removing barriers that prevent our navies from becoming even closer."
Cooper served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea since September 2016 and will next assume command of Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet in Okinawa, Japan.
CNFK is the U.S. Navy's representative in the Republic of Korea, providing leadership and expertise in naval matters to improve institutional and operational effectiveness between the two navies and to strengthen collective security efforts in Korea and the region.