U.S. 3rd Fleet was established March 15, 1943 under the command of Fleet Adm. William "Bull" Halsey. Embarked aboard his various flagships, most notable the USS Missouri
(BB 63), Adm. Halsey led his fleet into battle throughout the Pacific during World War II. His leadership of 3rd Fleet culminated in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945 where the final surrender documents ending the War were signed on Missouri’s
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Vice Adm. Beaman and staff aboard USS Missouri (BB 63) in 2012 during RIMPAC 2012.
Today, the rich heritage of the 3rd Fleet continues. 3rd Fleet is home to more than 58,000 Sailors serving aboard 124 afloat commands, and provides support to five Carrier Strike Groups (CSG’s), more than 400 aircraft, four Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESG’s), and the shore commands needed to train and maintain the fleet. In addition, 3rd Fleet is the Maritime Component Commander that oversees command and control of all maritime forces afloat in the Hawaii, Pacific Northwest, and San Diego operating areas.
The 3rd Fleet’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) provides maritime security to 50 million square miles of the Eastern and Northern Pacific ocean, from the International Date Line to the West Coast of North America including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and much of the Arctic. These areas contain major oil and trade sea lines of communication which are critically important to the economic health of the United States and friendly nations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Lean, Flexible and Focused N4/LRC Staff
With this in mind, the 3rd Fleet Logistics Directorate (N4) responsibility is to plan and execute logistics operations within the 3rd Fleet AOR. N4 is currently led by Capt. Sidney Kim, Assistant Chief of Staff, Logistics, who with his team of six officers and five enlisted Sailors are tasked with providing logistics operational support to all 3rd Fleet subordinate commands. They coordinate the logistics plans, maintenance and ordinance needs of the fleet units, while ensuring their own internal staff is well supported from a facilities and financial perspective.
While having only one person deep in each area of responsibility, the N4 staff is heavily cross trained, allowing it to remain operationally focused, flexible and multi-functional. The N4 staff interacts with Pacific Command, Northern Command, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CPF), Fleet Readiness (OPNAV N43), Maritime Sealift Command (MSCPAC), Defense Logistics Agency, Type Commanders, Naval Supply Global Logistics Support (GLS) and their support Fleet Logistics Centers (Joint Base Pearl Harbor -Hickam, Puget Sound, and San Diego), civilian community leaders during Fleet Weeks and Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) events, Foreign Armed Services, and traditional financial/supply stakeholders among many other groups, in the execution of their duties.
The N4 staff is ably assisted and enhanced by the reserve component Logistics Readiness Center (LRC) unit attached to 3rd Fleet. The LRC, led by Capt. Dan Pionk, is comprised of 20 officers and 10 enlisted personnel. During real world events and exercises when 3rd Fleet stands up the Maritime Operations Cell (MOC), the N4 stands up the LRC to bring in the depth and breadth of functional expertise allowing scalable logistics operations. LRC roles vary by event or exercise, but they are a key element to the N4’s mission coordinating support for the forces involved. LRC integrates with N4 and provides areas of support mirroring functions of N4, such as maintenance, ordinance, logistics planning and other specialized areas such mortuary affairs.
Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Certification
In contrast to other numbered Fleets, 3rd Fleet has the responsibility to certify CSGs upon completion of their training cycle. 3rd Fleet plays a critical role in developing the Fleet Response Training Plan (FRTP), along with overseeing exercises that test a strike group's ability to operate in hostile and complex environments with other U.S. and coalition forces. Each CSG must complete Group Sail, Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) to be certified as combat ready for deployment. 3rd Fleet N4’s role is to provide real time logistics support to Carrier Strike Groups that are under pressure during the certification process.
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Adm. William “Bull” Halsey aboard USS Missouri (BB 63) with C3F staff in 1945.
Operational Level War (OLW) and Coalition Building
Equally importantly, 3rd Fleet builds and sustains relationships with partner nations in the Pacific. To enhance these relations 3rd Fleet hosts the world's largest maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), in and around the Hawaiian Islands. RIMPAC requires long range planning to ensure participating nations receive valuable experience in tactical operations in addition to the developing their Operational Level War (OLW) skills.
In 2012, 3rd Fleet successfully completed its 23rd
RIMPAC, involving 22 participating nations, more than 40 ships and submarines and more than 200 aircraft. RIMPAC presents coveted unique opportunity to gain OLW experience not available to most nations, and every year additional countries request to be involved. Although 3rd Fleet has served in key roles during past RIMPACs, both as the Commander Coalition Task Force (CCTF) and Coalition Forces Maritime Command Center (CFMCC) lead, participating nations are becoming more involved filling advanced command roles and testing their own leadership within the multi-national exercises.
As an illustration, during RIMPAC 2012, 3rd Fleet N4 was essential to the development and implementation of the "first-ever" Multi-national Logistics Element (MLSE) which was comprised of seven nations … Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and U.S. The MLSE leveraged the FLC Pearl Harbor backbone, creating efficiencies and improving speed of service. As a result, the MLSE developed strong multinational relationships, enhancing understanding and perfecting the cohesiveness of all countries involved. In order to maintain greater coalition synergy, other countries such as Canada and Australia are taking turns leading the MLSE during future exercises.
RIMPAC 2014 will include participation by the Peoples Republic of China, presenting new and exciting challenges for 3rd Fleet and coalition partners.
Logistics – Pacific ‘Tyranny of Distance’
It takes time to move material across the vast Pacific Ocean; the Pacific borders on more nations than any other single body of water. Unquestionably, "strategic positioning and apportionment" of U.S. logistics assets based on geographical impact and inter/intra-theater transportation pipelines is important, but what is becoming increasingly important is understanding our coalition infrastructure, transportation, rules of engagement and force protection support all of which are critical to the coalition fight.
There is a paradigm shift occurring within the traditional war-fighting planning process. This shift changes the theory of U.S.-centric operational logistics support from where the U.S. brings a majority of its own materials to the fight, to one where the U.S. leverages resources of Coalitions forces; fully involving them as partners in our planning and execution. Moreover, prior understanding of partner nation transportation infrastructure support, industrial capability, mobilization process, along with their geographical advantages and disadvantages will enhance the common operational logistics picture.
Exercise Talisman Saber
2013 proved the tenet of distance very clearly. Talisman Saber
, second only to RIMPAC
in size and complexity of worldwide maritime exercises, is a bi-annual exercise in which U.S. forces work closely with Royal Australian Navy counterparts. One lesson learned evident to all the participants as noted by Capt. Kim, “Logistics sets the campaign's operational limit," where logistics vulnerabilities and shortfalls can quickly alter an operational campaign and require adjustment to mission parameters or goals.
Enduring Legacy of 3rd Fleet
Celebrating 70 years of excellence, 3rd Fleet leads Navy forces in the eastern Pacific from the west coast of North America to the International Date Line, providing realistic and relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. 3rd Fleet’s logistics directorate is involved in all day-to-day operations and provides unparalleled opportunities to train and develop Supply Corps officers in Logistics Planning, Operational Logistics, Ordnance, and Maintenance. Adm. Halsey’s legacy continues its historic role in protecting the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its partners in the Pacific.
By Capt. Dan Pionk, SC, USNR, and Cmdr. Rob Csorba, SC, USN; U.S. 3rd Fleet Logistics