By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group
Carl Vinson Strike Group patrols the Western Pacific as U.S. 3rd Fleet marks its 75th anniversary. We are demonstrating America’s commitment to regional security, stability and prosperity.
This deployment marks the second time this strike group deployed to the Indo-Pacific region under an initiative called Third Fleet Forward. Of note, the Carl Vinson Strike Group is the first carrier group in recent history to remain under U.S. 3rd Fleet’s control beyond the international dateline. These deployments provide the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) commander options to the traditional practice of U.S. 7th Fleet operationally controlling all U.S. Navy ships west of the international dateline and enables PACFLT the opportunity to better leverage the capabilities of its two subordinate fleets.
U.S. 3rd Fleet operating in the Western Pacific is not new. The command’s origins trace back to its formation as a forward-deploying unit under Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., during World War II. Although the size and nature of 3rd Fleet’s mission has changed since that time, Carl Vinson’s current deployment symbolizes a return to 3rd Fleet’s roots. The strike group’s historic four-day port visit to Da Nang, Vietnam is a tangible symbol that 3rd Fleet’s legacy carries on.
It was an incredible honor to fulfill an agreement between our top leaders by serving as the first carrier strike group to visit Vietnam in more than 40 years. The visit helped improve the bilateral relationship through people-to-people interactions that will forge stronger ties for years to come. Developing new cooperative relationships in the Indo-Pacific region is critical to stability, and the Carl Vinson Strike Group under 3rd Fleet’s command was pivotal.
U.S. 7th Fleet also played a leading role during the Vietnam visit. Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, 7th Fleet’s commander, led the U.S. delegation during formal meetings with key leaders and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band performed free public concerts, showcasing music as a universal language. The Third Fleet Forward construct allowed both numbered fleets to complement one another in Vietnam just as it does at sea.
While transiting the South China Sea prior to the port call in Da Nang, we hosted guests from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. One of the most heartwarming comments was how such young people – our Sailors – are able to do such sophisticated things. Our visitors gained a better understanding of our Sailors’ character after observing flight operations and interacting with crew members throughout the ship. During various tours and events in Da Nang, the Vietnamese people observed the same. Visitors learned what I know: platforms don’t build maritime cooperation; machines don’t forge relationships that can withstand the test of time – Sailors do. Sailors show our presence and reassure friends and allies. Sailors at sea under 3rd Fleet’s command proudly carry the mission forward.
Congratulations to U.S. 3rd Fleet for 75 years of honorable and dedicated service.