CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) — A combat-hardened officer recently leading special operations units in Iraq took charge today of the Navy’s entire force of 8,300 Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, and supporting staff during a change of command ceremony at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado Sept. 5.
Rear Adm. Edward G. Winters III relieved Rear Adm. Garry J. Bonelli as commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, the headquarters of the Navy’s special operations forces.
Bonelli, who previously served as deputy commander of NSW, took command in June when then-commander Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan was selected to take charge of the newly-established U.S. 4th Fleet. Bonelli now returns to his former position as deputy commander.
Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander, United States Special Operations Command, served as guest speaker at the ceremony. As former commander of NSW, he understands the tremendous impact the force is having in the current global conflict.
"With Navy SEALs at the core, Naval Special Warfare has been magnificent," said Olson. "The successes against Al Qaida in Iraq are due in no small part to the talent, professionalism, the dedication, the tenacity, and the operational flexibility of this great force. Rear Adm. Bonelli has been accountable for the force’s readiness."
Before he relinquished command, Bonelli remarked on his short tour at the helm of NSW with reverence for the everyday warriors he led and respect for his successor.
"During this time of war, it’s been a true privilege and honor, frankly a humbling experience, to serve this great team of agile, formidable SEALs, Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen, military mission specialists, and civilian experts," Bonelli said. "Welcome aboard Ed. You’re absolutely the right leader at the right time to keep this force at the forefront of the global war on terrorism."
Winters commanded the Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force Transition Team prior to his selection as commander of NSW. His career includes multiple tours of duty with SEAL teams and deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was selected for flag rank on Aug. 1, 2007.
During his 28 years of service, Winters received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (two awards); the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal (three awards), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (five awards), the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and various unit and personal citations.
During his first address to the guests and his staff, Winters expressed appreciation for his new command. "I think it’s the best job you can have on the planet here at Naval Special Warfare, the greatest command this country has ever had."
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 8,300 active-duty and Reserve SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman operators and support personnel based primarily in San Diego, Norfolk, and deployed all over the world.