Capt. Kenneth S. Pickard relieved Capt. Frank E. Okata as commodore, CTF-63/MSCEURAF during the ceremony.
Vice Adm. Gene Black, Commander U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT), served as the guest speaker for the event.
“Frank, we have come a long way since the spring of 1997, when you reported aboard USS Normandy (CG 60) as Ensign Okata and stood your first bridge watches under the supervision of Lieutenant Commander Black,” said Black. “I thoroughly enjoyed serving with you again, seeing how far your career has come, and I look forward to continued future success.”
Black also spoke about the impact Okata had on SIXTHFLT during his tour and presented Okata with the Legion of Merit for his actions while serving as commodore, CTF 63.
“Frank, thank you for all you have done across Sixth Fleet supporting me and your fellow Task Force Commanders,” said Black. “I don’t think you fully realize the incredible impact you had enabling all of our success.”
During his time as commodore, Okata exercised operational and tactical control of logistics aircraft assigned as Navy Region’s Operational Support Aircraft, Navy Unique Fleet Essential Aircraft, and embarked vertical replenishment helicopters from active and reserve force providers to consistently deliver theater logistics support to two Combatant Commanders. This support led to over 1,600 unique airlifts across 74 countries in the European Command and Africa Command area of operations.
He oversaw a team that delivered 6,500 pallets of cargo and transferred 16 million barrels of fuel to transiting ships and fuel bunkering locations throughout Europe. Sealift ships under his command also performed 109 replenishment at sea operations with U.S ships and 83 with NATO units.
After congratulating Okata on his noteworthy accomplishments, Black addressed Capt. Pickard, speaking to his confidence in Pickard and welcoming the new commodore to his position.
“Ken, I know you are ready to take command of this unique and extremely critical Task Force and Sealift Command. Task Force 63 and Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa provides the beans, bombs, and bullets to keep the fleet operational and in fighting form,” said Black. I am confident you will continue the amazing work and success of your predecessor.”
Okata had an opportunity to speak and reflect on his time as commodore and Commander of CTF-63/MSCEURAF.
“This was a hard speech to think about,” said Okata. “I had a very good time at this command serving under two great Fleet Commanders, Admirals Franchetti and Black.”
Commander, Task Force 63 is the operational commander of all the U.S. Sixth Fleet air and sea logistics. Composed of oilers, provision ships, and repair ships, its mission is the delivery of supplies at sea, and effecting repairs to other ships and equipment of the Fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.