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Head of Navy personnel tapped to lead Pacific Fleet’s troubled surface force

Rear Adm. Richard Brown (U.S. Navy)

The rear admiral in charge of Navy personnel has been nominated to command Naval Surface Forces, a dual-hatted role that includes leadership of U.S. Pacific Fleet’s troubled surface force.

Rear Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Navy Personnel Command and deputy chief of Naval Personnel in Millington, Tenn., would be promoted to vice admiral for the command, based in San Diego.

Pacific Fleet has been rocked this year by two deadly collisions of guided-missile destroyers with merchant ships that left 17 sailors dead. The USS Fitzgerald crashed in June, followed by the USS John S. McCain in August.

The surface fleet’s current commander, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, requested early retirement, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in September. Rowden told the newspaper that he believed reforming the surface fleet could best be achieved with new leadership.

Top officers of the Fitzgerald and McCain were relieved of command, as well as the commanders of Task Force 70, Destroyer Squadron 15 and 7th Fleet, to which the ships belonged.

Adm. Scott Swift, Pacific Fleet commander, announced in September that he would retire after learning he would not be nominated to lead Pacific Command. His retirement date has not been announced.

A Navy comprehensive review examining systemic problems in the wake of the collisions recommended improving seamanship and navigational skills for surface warfare candidates and officers, quartermasters and operations specialists.

Brown had become involved in addressing manning shortcomings in 7th Fleet. In July, he attended a summit at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, where Navy officials discussed the impact that manning policies were having on the forward-deployed 7th Fleet.

Brown told Stars and Stripes then that 7th Fleet should have priority in the assignment of sailors.

Brown has headed Navy Personnel Command since September 2016. His sea tours included command of the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans and USS Gettysburg. He also commanded Carrier Strike Group 11.

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© 2017 the Stars and Stripes

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