140127-N-LM312-035 SASEBO, Japan (Jan.27, 2014) - Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, U.S. 7th Fleet commander, addresses the chiefs and officers of the forward-deployed Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Patriot (MCM 7) in the pilothouse.  Thomas visited Patriot as part of a tour of naval facilities and ships located at Fleet Activities Sasebo. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright/Released)
U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Visits Sasebo Naval Base 
SASEBO, Japan – Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, U.S. 7th Fleet commander, visited Fleet Activities Sasebo Jan. 27, 2014 for the first time in his tenure as Seventh Fleet’s commander.

During his visit, Thomas, accompanied by Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, Amphibious Force 7th fleet’s commander, made his rounds to several of the forward-deployed ships stationed in Sasebo and took the opportunity to speak to Sailors at every command.

He began his visit by walking through the building of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 76 to see some of the renovations that have been made to the building.

After completing his walkthrough, Thomas began his tour of forward-deployed Sasebo ships at Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), focusing on the ship’s areas requiring repairs.

Thomas’ next stop was the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Patriot (MCM 7) where he witnessed firsthand the hard work of her crew preparing for a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). Thomas also took the time to review his mission statement and hold a brief question and answer session with Patriot’s officer and chief community aboard.

“If there is one thing I want to accomplish during my tenure it’s bringing the focus back to our ships,” said Thomas. “We need to ensure that every ship in 7th fleet has the proper tools and time to maintain operational readiness so they can quickly and effectively respond to any mission.”

Immediately following his visit on the Patriot, Thomas made the trek to Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Engineering was in the spotlight as Thomas took a walk through several of Ashland’s main spaces.

After sharing his mission statement with Ashland’s chief’s mess, Thomas departed Ashland and arrived at his final stop; the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
Capt. Joey Tynch, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer , and Capt. Heidi Agle, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 escorted Thomas around CTF 76’s spaces on the ship to give him an idea of Bonhomme Richard’s warfighting capabilities.

Throughout his tour of Sasebo, Thomas said the Sailors in 7th Fleet are his number one priority.

“We need to ensure that we are continually training, developing, and retaining our Sailors so the future of our Navy is in great hands,” said Thomas. “By doing our best to improve their quality of life and addressing their concerns, we can take one small step toward this goal.”

Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Amphibious Ready Group and serves as the flagship for Combined Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
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