Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, right, addresses his staff for the first time after relieving Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, center, as commander of Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd Macdonald)

OKINAWA, Japan - In a ceremony at command headquarters, Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald relieved Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley as Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. Seventh Fleet, Sept. 11.

Harley took command of Amphibious Force, U.S. Seventh Fleet in May 2012. The position commands both Task Force 76 and Expeditionary Strike Group Seven. While in command, Harley oversaw a wide range of missions including maritime security operations and crisis response.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to serve you, and I am blessed to have been able to help shape and prepare this Task Force for the increased focus on operations within the Asia-Pacific," said Harley. "This has been the most rewarding experiences of my career."

Harley also oversaw multiple international exercises with militaries of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, South Korea, and India. He also worked on a regular basis with the leadership of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. Building these relationships helped to deepen diplomatic relationships with U.S. allies in the Pacific Region.

"You have made a significant and lasting positive impact," said Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas Jr., Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, in a congratulatory message. "Your contributions to the long term health of the force and your vision for amphibiosity have put us on course for success far into the future."

With the reading of his orders and a brief speech to those in attendance Wetherald officially assumed command.

"The reputation of CTF 76 precedes you." said Wetherald. "I am humbled to be here and there is no other place that I would rather be on this day than to take command of this and carry on our great legacy."

Task Force 76/Expeditionary Strike Group Seven is the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.