Rear Adm. Fred Kacher salutes sideboys aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) during the change of command ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jeremy Starr)

SASEBO, Japan - Rear Adm. Fred Kacher assumed command of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet from Rear Adm. Brad Cooper during a change of command ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), May 17.

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, was the guest speaker during the ceremony and highlighted Cooper's accomplishments.

"Brad, you have done a superb job leading this team," said Sawyer while highlighting Cooper's substantial accomplishments in partnerships, readiness and operations. "The U.S.-Japan Alliance is truly the cornerstone of security in this region and our bond with the [Japan Self-Defense Force] could not be stronger. That bond will remain just as strong for as long as leaders like Brad, and now Fred, invest their time and energy into the alliance."

Sawyer presented Cooper with the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commander of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet.

During Cooper's time as commander, the Sailors and Marines of Task Force 76 focused on increasing readiness and lethality throughout the force. Together they executed the first deployment of the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, led the Navy response to aid Americans following typhoon damage in Guam and the Northern Marina Islands, led the Joint Task Force supporting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2018 and executed more than 25 exercises and operations with U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

"To the Sailors in our strike group, I extend my personal thanks," said Cooper. "My most treasured memory from this tour stems from the great accomplishments of the Sailors and Marines that we have the privilege to serve alongside. They make us all so proud each and every day."

Cooper's next assignment is in Washington, D.C. as the Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Secretary of the Navy.

Kacher, who previously served as executive officer to the Commander, United States European Command, expressed his excitement about becoming the commander of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet.

"Know that I will do my level best to work with each of you to build on the friendship and operational excellence established by [Rear] Adm. Cooper," said Kacher. "For the Sailors and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group 7, I'm ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we deliver lethal combat capability and integrated American sea power in support of our nation and our neighbors in the Indo-Pacific."

Kacher will now command Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, which consists of Amphibious Squadron 11, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Germantown (LSD 42), Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7, USS Chief (MCM 14), USS Pioneer (MCM 9), USS Patriot (MCM 7), USS Warrior (MCM 10), Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 14, Fleet Surgical Team 7, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, and Naval Beach Unit 7.

Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet is the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, and is responsible for the full range of expeditionary operations from disaster relief to crisis response in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, delivers remarks during the ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jeremy Starr)