In this file photo, Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, speaks with news media aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy/MCSN Liam Kennedy)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, outlined his priorities during an all hands call with his staff Nov. 14, to discuss his goals and objectives for the Fleet.

“Seventh Fleet’s reason for existence is combat readiness. Our nation and our allies count on us to aggregate credible combat power whenever it is needed, anywhere in the region,” said Thomas.

His first priority, “Sustain the Fleet,” is focused on ensuring the modernization, maintenance and high readiness of the Fleet. By scheduling and posturing forces to avoid vulnerability, Thomas aims to train and certify for combat operations at all levels, and develop Sailors and officers to operate with initiative and responsibility. Beyond mere maintenance and training, however, Thomas also said that sustainment encompasses taking care of Seventh Fleet families and shipmates.

“Sustainment is about maintaining our warfighting advantage, which starts with our people,” said Thomas. “This is more than just making sure ships get the repairs they need. Sustaining the fleet means putting the right people in the right jobs and making sure their families are taken care of. We have an immense amount of talent out here.”

“Insisting on operational excellence” is the second priority Thomas emphasized. To accomplish this, Thomas said the Seventh Fleet must be ready to conduct the full spectrum of operations, from high end combat and contingency response, to presence operations and theater security cooperation. To achieve this priority, the Seventh Fleet will focus on interoperability with allies and partners by developing innovative, integrated warfighting tactics to be ready to fight and win.

“There are 35 maritime nations in this region that depend on 7th Fleet’s presence to maintain security and stability,” said Thomas. “We work with more nations and more cultures than any other fleet. It’s our job to build those relationships that lay the foundation for the future success of this region.”

Thomas’s final priority is to “align our forces through coordination up, down and across the chain of command to ensure unity of effort.” Thomas explained this priority as an initiative to actively synchronize efforts with all levels of the chain of command.

“We have to ensure we are focusing on higher headquarter priorities and communicating efficiently across the 48 million square miles of our area of operations,” said Thomas.

The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia- Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build maritime partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.