Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney had assumed command of 5th Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command in May, a job that oversees U.S. naval operations in the Middle East.
Richardson said Bahraini authorities and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are coordinating but that “at this time, no foul play is expected" in the death of the 58-year-old man.
“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet and the entire Navy,” Richardson said. “He was a good friend to all of us.”
Navy officials declined further comment.
Fifth Fleet’s second-in-charge, Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, has assumed command, Richardson said.
A Chicago native, Stearney commissioned into the Navy in 1982 and was designated a naval aviator two years later, according to his command biography.
He served in numerous strike fighter squadrons, flying the F/A-18 Hornet for squadrons 87 and 136.
Stearney led Strike Fighter Squadron 131 and served in Afghanistan as chief of staff of joint task forces there.
Before taking the helm of 5th Fleet in May, he served as operations director for U.S. Central Command.