BUSAN, Republic of Korea -- Rear Adm. Michael P. Donnelly relieved Michael E. Boyle as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea (CNFK) and commander, U.S. Navy Region Korea (CNRK) during a change of command ceremony at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet base in Busan, April 25.
The ceremony marked the 36th time CNFK has changed command since its establishment July 1, 1957.
U.S. Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea, said the change marked a “significant milestone” in U.S.-ROK relations on the peninsula as Boyle’s leadership had impacted the relationship for the better, overseeing the “monumental relocation” of CNFK offices south from U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan to three locations, including a new headquarters aboard the ROK base in Busan.
“Not only did you move the command to three new locations, you did so simultaneously, seamlessly, and flawlessly,” Abrams said. “You strengthened the alliance; you were the lynchpin in ensuring it remains ironclad.”
During the ceremony, Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, presented Boyle with the Legion of Merit award for his achievements while serving in Korea. In a separate ceremony April 17, Boyle also received the Order of National Security Merit Cheon-su Medal from ROK Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Sim Seung-seob.
After receiving the award from Sawyer, Boyle spoke to the crowd of more than 300 assembled U.S. and ROK military personnel and civilian guests and thanked his staff for their hard work.
“We’re a team, and my job is to carry your message,” Boyle said. “I am your voice. Thank you for continuously providing me with an outstanding message—one that was extremely impactful during a dynamic period in Korea.”
Boyle attributed his success at CNFK to the close working relationships the U.S. Navy enjoys with their ROK counterparts and throughout the region.
“We’re small, we’re lean, and we’re agile,” Boyle said. “We don’t have ships to command here in South Korea, but we have relationships with commands that do. We build relationships.”
Boyle served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea since January 2018 and will next assume command of Carrier Strike Group 12 in Norfolk, Va.
Having concluded his remarks, Boyle read his orders, officially transferring command to Donnelly, who said he is deeply honored by the opportunity to lead USFK and USRK forward in the Navy’s ironclad alliance with the ROK.
“We will proceed with the vision and priorities of assuring and strengthening the capability and interoperability of our alliance and the important role that we play to ensure stability and security on the peninsula and in the region,” Donnelly said. “And, by continuing to evolve the steadfast relationship between the US and ROK navies, looking forward from this historic period to the needs and opportunities of the future.”
Donnelly previously served as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
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.
CNRK provides shore installation management and support to Navy activities throughout the Republic of Korea. CNRK exercises military command over Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae, the only U.S. Navy installation in Korea.