Today’s Bloggers’ Round Table gave us the opportunity to interview Adm. Joseph Kernan, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet.
The Fourth Fleet was originally created during World War II and assigned mission in the South Atlantic. It was disestablished in 1950. In April 2008 it was reactivated and assigned duties in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean Sea, to include all of Latin America.
Fourth Fleet has no ships. Adm. Kernan is a Navy SEAL. It has responsibilities in two different oceans. This makes for a curious start.
The reality is that Fourth Fleet has as one of its primary tasks the CNO’s direction to build partnerships with friendly nations. To that end, it ran Operation Continuing Promise ’08 this year where both USS Boxer and USS Kearsarge deployed on humanitarian missions in Latin America. Kearsarge came from the Atlantic Fleet and Boxer from the Pacific Fleet and were under Fourth’s control for their missions.
In addition, Fourth Fleet will serve as a training partner for the militaries in the region. Operation Southern Partnership Station will be held in the summer of 2009. It will involve the USS Oak Hill, United States Marines as well as Marines from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru and Uruguay. Some of our partner Marines will embark at Mayport, Florida while others will join during the op. Some of the partner nations will also join the command element on board.
Planning at Fourth Fleet includes possible mass migration activities, such as if there were to be another Mariel boat lift. The Fleet is also involved in supporting anti-drug activities and anti-terrorism activities.
Missions such as Continuing Promise are planned to continue indefinitely. The goal is to institutional the Navy’s presence in the region. A recent conference held by the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington with a number of NGO’s involved changing their perceptions of the Navy’s humanitarian assistance role and informing them of the Navy’s capacity to provide a wide variety of support to their work.
Kernan told us that one of the biggest lessons from Continuing Promise for him was the importance of joint / interagency cooperation. This cooperation was vital in the successes achieved during Continuing Promise ’08. He stated that NGO’s are now lining up for inclusion in future Navy humanitarian missions.
One of the most innovative changes to come out of Continuing Promise ’08, according to Adm. Kernan, was a cybermedicine program with a group of doctors in El Salvador. They now have the ability to realtime their surgery to Mayport and obtain advice and consultations with doctors in the United States during their treatment of their patients.