Fleet command changes hands

Command of His Majesty’s Australian Fleet has passed from Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley to Rear Admiral Chris Smith in a ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney.

CAPTION: Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley hands over the ‘weight of command’ of His Majesty’s Australian Fleet to Rear Admiral Chris Smith during a ceremony at Fleet Headquarters, HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney. Story by Meg Van Lohuizen. Photo by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.

The occasion marked the end of a short but significant tenure for Rear Admiral Earley, who took the helm in June 2022 on promotion from Deputy Fleet Commander.

Rear Admiral Earley said the privilege of Fleet Command had been a career highlight.

“Our service men and women have been resolute in their support to the most vulnerable members of our community through flood emergencies and assistance to the aged-care sector,” Rear Admiral Earley said.

“Furthermore, we have embarked on some of the most comprehensive regional engagement activities our Navy has ever seen, investigating new and sophisticated ways in which to work together with security partners and deepening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

In September, the fleet hosted the largest iteration of Exercise Kakadu off the coast of Northern Australia, involving 15 warships and 34 aircraft from 22 nations.

The Navy also conducted its flagship regional engagement activity, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022, in which five ships and 1800 personnel visited 14 countries.

The fleet also participated in a number of regional presence deployments, including Exercises Rim of the Pacific, Malabar and Keen Sword, and fleet units were embedded in the USS Ronald Reagancarrier strike group.

“I am proud of the commitment our people have shown in helping those affected by floods, while also maintaining Navy’s high-tempo operations,” Rear Admiral Earley said.

“Thank you for your efforts in protecting Australia’s security and prosperity through your diligent and professional conduct with our regional partners.

“My congratulations to Rear Admiral Smith for his appointment to Commander Australian Fleet. I am confident I leave the fleet in good hands.”

Rear Admiral Smith thanked his predecessor for his strong leadership and service.

“You came into the role at a challenging time for the nation and the Navy, and you led the fleet with a calm and steady hand,” Rear Admiral Smith said.

Rear Admiral Smith said he was humbled to take command.

“Our fleet is undergoing its biggest evolution since World War 2,” he said.

“I am looking forward to continuing the work of optimising the fleet and bringing new capabilities online.”

Rear Admiral Smith assumes command of His Majesty’s Australian Fleet, having served as Deputy Chief of Navy.  Rear Admiral Earley will assume the role of Deputy Chief of Navy.





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