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NEWS | April 15, 2024

Task Force 70, Carrier Strike Group 5 holds change of command

By Lt.Cmdr. Seth Koenig, Commander, Task Force 70 / Carrier Strike Group 5

Rear Adm. Pat Hannifin turned command of Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5 over to Rear Adm. Greg Newkirk during a ceremony at U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka Friday morning, April 12.

The guest speaker at the event was Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, while the presiding officer was Vice Adm. Fred Kacher, Commander of U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka.

“I am confident that the leadership of the United States Navy is well-equipped to navigate the challenges ahead, safeguarding our way of life for future generations,” said Aquilino. "With a commitment to freedom, peace, security, prosperity, and stability, alongside our allies and partners worldwide, the Navy remains steadfast. Today, as two distinguished warriors transition, the Navy continues to deploy its finest warfighters to address our most formidable challenges.”

Task Force 70 controls the preponderance of forward-deployed air and surface maneuver and striking forces in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, overseeing Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51 and Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, as well as the ships and aircraft operating under Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Robert Smalls (CG 62) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.

“I’m incredibly proud of this team and their accomplishments over the past year,” said Hannifin, completing his third Forward-Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) tour. “The men and women of Task Force 70 are our nation’s front line: 11,000 Sailors across 23 commands and staffs – each demonstrating America’s firm commitment to freedom of navigation and rule of law in the Indo-Pacific, just as their predecessors have done for over 70 years.

“Our mission is clear and our cause is just,” he continued. “We are the leading edge of a powerful joint and combined force – ready, lethal and confident to deter, fight and win alongside our allies and partners in the region. I am incredibly honored to have stood among them, and know Admiral Newkirk is exactly the man needed to lead them in the coming year.”

Following his tour as commander of Task Force 70 and CSG 5, Hannifin, a San Diego native, will go on to serve as the director of operations for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“Command at any level is one of life’s most distinct honors and most sacred privileges,” said Newkirk. “To command at any time and place of such great global consequence alongside great teams that include our friends here in Japan - the honor becomes even higher.”

Newkirk, from Medina, Ohio, becomes the 79th commander of Task Force 70 and takes over the dual-hatted position after serving as a deputy director of operations for the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.

Newkirk previously served as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 and as commander of Carrier Air Wing 2, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

Task Force 70 is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. U.S. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

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