MANAMA, Bahrain – Vice Adm. Brad Cooper relieved Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) during a change of command ceremony onboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain, May 5, 2021.
Paparo, who assumed command Aug. 2020, led the three organizations, made up of thousands of Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and 34 partner nations, through uncertain and complex challenges in the region.
The presiding officer, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), highlighted Paparo’s contributions to joint and coalition efforts in the region.
“We appreciate your service to Central Command over the past several years. Under Sam’s leadership here at NAVCENT - measurable impact across the region - whether it was providing maritime security, close-air support for our ground forces or strategic deterrence, Sam’s command has been proactive, vigiliant and highly successful,” said McKenzie. “Besides commanding coalition maritime operations in support of Operation Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve, Sam has been a driving force behind the growth and interoperability amongst several of our partners’ maritime forces, an essential task if we are going to build readiness and resiliency here in the region.”
During Paparo’s remarks, he highlighted the accomplishments of the NAVCENT, 5th Fleet, CMF and Coalition Task Force Sentinel teams, noting the importance of regional and coalition partners to ensuring maritime security.
“Our plate is perpetually filled as we unite with likeminded partners such as our coalitions of CMF and International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), to ensure freedom of maritime commerce – threatened by hostile maritime forces, piracy, the smuggling of drugs, weapons, people, petroleum products and charcoal – with strategic consequences as the money from this illicit activity is often used to fund terrorism and other illegal ventures to achieve an impact worldwide,” said Paparo. “As partners, on any given day, we are promoting maritime security and providing reassurance to the critical shipping industry - protecting key trade routes through which 20% of the world’s commerce passes; providing rapid response in support of manmade and natural disasters; and projecting combat power from the sea in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel.”
Paparo overcame challenges presented by COVID-19 to successfully guide U.S. and coalition naval forces through numerous complex joint and combined maritime operational events in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR), resulting in enhanced security and stability in the maritime environment.
As CMF commander, the coalition expanded to 34-partner nations with Egypt joining in March, and 30 narcotics seizures worth more than $122 million.
“Leading this team as the NAVCENT, 5th Fleet, CMF, and Multi-National Task Force commander is the single greatest honor and challenge of my career, and I have been humbled and privileged to serve with every single one of you each and every day,” said Paparo.
Cooper assumes command following his most recent tour as Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic. A career surface warfare officer with sea commands in USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64), additional assignments include Chief of Legislative Affairs, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea and commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 in Okinawa, Japan.
Cooper reiterated the United States' commitment to maritime security in the region along with pledging to strengthen existing relationships and foster new partnerships throughout the region.
“The four most enduring and important ships in this region are partnerships, relationships and friendships; tied all together in collective and extraordinary leadership,” said Cooper.