Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee took over as commanding officer of U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO Sept. 15, relieving Vice Adm. Gene Black III.
Ishee, who previously served as the director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command, leads 6th Fleet as the Navy continues to ramp up its presence in the European theater following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
For example, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, which deployed in December and was scheduled to spend some time in the 5th Fleet, remained in the 6th Fleet in response to Russia’s actions while embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 completed NATO enhanced air policing missions. The carrier later conducted dual carrier operations with its successor, the USS George H.W. Bush, in August before heading back to Norfolk.
“History is unfolding before our eyes, and our nation, the alliance, other allies and our partners around the world are relying on Sixth Fleet and STRIKFORNATO to maintain freedom of navigation, defend our nations and the alliance, and support our partners,” Ishee said in a Navy news release. “We will continue to build these enduring relationships through training and exercises, common values, and shared experiences and vision.”
Ishee, originally from Georgia, has also previously served as the director of operations for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and as the deputy commander for 6th Fleet.
Under Black’s leadership, the Truman was placed under NATO operational control in January for the first time since the Cold War for a new maritime exercise, called Neptune Strike, that focused on maritime maneuvers, anti-submarine warfare training, and long-range strike training in the 6th Fleet.
Additionally, 6th Fleet also stood up Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division in April to consolidate Blue-Green forces in Europe.
“Gene has sustained an unprecedented level of activity as the fleet commander for the Euro-Atlantic area, recalibrating our combined forces for dynamic operations, as the tenets of strategic competition dictate, to deter Russian aggression and stand ready to defend NATO,” said Adm. Stuart Munsch, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, in the release. “No one can look at the tenor you’ve set and argue that our adversaries haven’t factored your warfighting command of Sixth Fleet and STRIKFORNATO into their calculus.”
Black, who served as the 6th Fleet commanding officer since June 2020, is now headed to Washington, D.C., where he will serve as the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy.
The change of command was held on U.S. Naval Support Activity Naples in Italy.