CORONADO, CALIF. (NNS) — The commander of Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW) turned over command of 8,400 Navy SEALs, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen and supporting staff during a ceremony today at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif.
Rear Admiral Joseph D. Kernan relinquished command to his deputy commander, Rear Adm. Garry J. Bonelli. Kernan had served at the helm of the Navy’s special operations forces since last June.
Rear Adm. Edward G. Winters III will ultimately assume command of NSW later this year. He is currently assigned as commanding general, Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force Transition Team, Multi-National Force Iraq, in Baghdad.
Kernan will go on to serve as both commander, U.S. 4th Fleet, and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command in Mayport, Fla. U.S. 4th Fleet is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean Sea and Central and South America and the surrounding waters. The command was originally operational from 1943-1950 before it was disestablished. The Chief of Naval Operations announced its re-establishment April 24.
"Fourth fleet, along with its traditional security and high seas exercise roles, is headed for the littorals," said Kernan, "and the sailors will be going feet-dry."
Kernan’s selection for command of 4th Fleet was lauded by guest speaker Admiral Eric T. Olson, commander, United States Special Operations Command. "We applaud his selection to command a numbered fleet of the United States Navy. He’s the first Navy SEAL to do so – in fact he’s the first SEAL flag officer to command anything outside of the special operations community."
During the ceremony, Kernan received a Distinguished Service Medal for his year of service as commander. During his tenure, one of Kernan focused on putting programs and initiatives in place to increase the number of SEAL recruits in order to meet the demanding requirements for special operations forces in the Global War on Terrorism. He and his wife, Jan, pioneered a comprehensive program focused on helping NSW families adjust to the challenges associated with combat deployments.
"He has brilliantly and energetically led this force," Olson remarked, "while recruiting and posturing for even greater success the force of tomorrow."
After assuming command Bonelli promised to do his best to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.
"My intent during my tenure here in command is very straightforward: I will listen, I will learn and I will lead."
Bonelli’s distinguished career includes two combat tours in Vietnam, command of eight Navy Reserve units, and command of SEAL Team 5, marking him as the only reservist to command an active duty SEAL Team. He later became deputy commander of Navy Reserve Readiness Command Southwest and then chief of staff for Naval Special Warfare Command. In his prior civilian profession, Bonelli served as a staff director with the San Diego Association of Governments, a strategic research, planning and transportation agency working for the 18 cities and county government in the region. He helped manage a $14 billion public infrastructure program and developed public policy initiatives for locally elected officials on numerous issues encompassing population growth, transportation, governance, housing, environmental management, economic development, public safety, bi-national coordination and military-civilian community relationships.
Naval Special Warfare Command is the Navy component of United States Special Operations Command and the special operations component of the United States Navy. The command supports, trains, equips and deploys maritime special operations forces to meet the operational requirements of combatant commanders. These special operations forces include more than 8,400 active-duty and reserve SEALs (Sea-Air-Land) and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman (SWCC) operators and support personnel based primarily in San Diego, Calif., Norfolk, Va., and deployed all over the world.