SAN DIEGO – Vice Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III relieved Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt as Commander, Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) and Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC), during a ceremony aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), July 19.
“To the staff, ships, leaders, officers, and crews across our surface force, I want to thank you for your dedication, hard work, and professionalism,” said Hunt. “I have had a great tour as Commander, Naval Surface Forces and it is directly due to the selfless support each of you has provided. I feel truly blessed and am humbly honored to have led the men and women that man our nation’s Naval Surface Forces on the greatest ships to ever sail the world’s oceans.”
During his time at SURFOR, Hunt provided combat-ready warships to combatant commanders by effectively manning, training, and equipping a combined force of 163 ships, 53 special combat support force units and 64 subordinate staffs around the world.
Adm. Cecil D. Haney, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the guest speaker at the ceremony and congratulated Hunt on a job well done and said Copeman comes to SURFOR with impressive credentials and many successes. Copeman thanked Hunt for his thorough turnover, commended his successful command tour and briefly discussed his thoughts as they relate to the Surface Force and the coming years.
“I believe in the power of our Sailors to overcome any obstacle,” said Copeman. “The CNO has given us six simple words to focus our energy. Warfighting first. Operate forward. Be ready. Six words that have much meaning and impact for us. Warfighting First means a myriad of things, but first and foremost it means that our Sailors must be able to fight. Our Sailors are ‘the main thing’ for the Surface Force. They are the main battery. Nothing is more important than our Sailors and their training, education and experience. ”
The ceremony marks the end of a 13-month command tour for Hunt, who was commissioned in 1976 through the Officer Candidate School Program in Newport, R.I. His command tours include USS Crommelin (FFG 37) and USS Philippine Sea (CG 58); Commander, Carrier Strike Group 6; and Commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, United States Central Command. Hunt reported to SURFOR after a tour as Commander, U.S. Third Fleet. He next reports to Washington, D.C., as Director, Navy Staff.
Vice Adm. Copeman was commissioned in April 1982 through the Officer Candidate School Program in Newport, R.I. He assumes command of SURFOR with extensive command experience, including tours as executive officer aboard USS Lake Champlain (CG 57); commanding officer aboard USS Benfold (DDG 65); Commander, Destroyer Squadron 28; Chief of Staff, Naval Surface Forces; and Commander, Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Most recently, he served as Chief of Legislative Affairs.
SURFOR is responsible for the readiness of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, littoral combat ships, and logistics and fleet support ships. Eight of these ships belong to the Naval Reserve Force. The entire surface force comprises approximately 49,000 active duty military, 4,800 reservists and 3,865 civilian employees of the Department of Defense. The staff of Commander, Naval Surface Force, comprises approximately 355 people; 240 military and 115 civilians.
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