Yokosuka, home of 7th Fleet, welcomes new commander
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy’s largest overseas base welcomed a new commander on Tuesday but not a newcomer to the Indo-Pacific region.
Capt. Rich Jarrett took charge of the installation — the official title is Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka — from Capt. Jeffrey Kim, who held the post for three years, at a change-of-command ceremony on Commander Hill.
“Our close cooperative friendship with our uniformed Japanese counterparts is one of the most treasured aspects of serving in Yokosuka,” Kim said during the ceremony in the base auditorium.
“The collective resolve of Japan and the U.S. is expressed in the spirit of freedom that sails from the ships of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. 7th Fleet.”
Yokosuka employs about 24,000 military and civilian personnel who provide services and support for 7th Fleet. The base is home for more than 70 tenant commands and homeport for the USS Blue Ridge, the fleet command ship; the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the only carrier permanently deployed outside the United States; and more than a dozen other warships.
“It was almost two years ago that I made Fleet Activities Yokosuka the top of my list for duty assignments,” Jarrett said during the ceremony, “and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the fleet and its forward-deployed forces in the Navy’s most challenging region.”
Jarrett’s last posting was with the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was a surface warfare officer and part of the commissioning crew of the USS Freedom and then commander of the USS Fort Worth, both relatively new littoral combat ships.
As Fort Worth commander, Jarrett was among the first U.S. skippers to bump heads with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Before freedom-of-navigation operations became regular events, the Fort Worth in May 2015 was trailed by a Chinese frigate as it made its way near the disputed Spratly Islands.
Jarrett, then a commander in rank, used agreed-upon radio codes to talk with his Chinese counterpart, whom the Fort Worth met “unexpectedly,” according to the Japan Times. “I expect that we may have a similar encounter because we’re operating in this part of the world,” the newspaper quoted Jarrett as saying in June 2015.
When he turned over command of the Fort Worth the following month, Jarrett was one of the longest serving officers in the littoral combat ship program.
Jarrett, originally of Charleston, W.Va., is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, West Virginia University, the Naval War College and the National War College.
Kim’s next assignment takes him to the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo. The strategic institute trains high-level Self-Defense Force officers and holds the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s core policy research division, which focuses on studies in military history and security.
While taking command in July 2016 at Yokosuka, Kim quoted the late Sen. Mike Mansfield, also the longest-serving U.S. ambassador to Japan: “The U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.”
Previously, Kim served as deputy director for Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Action Group and spent a year in Tokyo on a fellowship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, the National Diet and the Kanagawa prefectural government.
Kim emigrated at age 9 with his family from Korea and is a past commander of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, which is stationed at Yokosuka.