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Change of Command held at Commander Task Force 72 / Commander Fleet Air Western Pacific

06/20/19 03:19 PM

ATSUGI, JAPAN – Capt. Matthew F. Rutherford, USN, relieved Capt. Brian C. Erickson, USN, as Commander, Task Force SEVEN TWO (CTF-72) and Commander, Fleet Air Western Pacific (CFWP), June 21 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s Hangar 183.

Erickson praised the people with whom he served, attributing much of the success of his 24-month tour to their hard work.

“For the past two years, it has been an honor and privilege to serve and lead the Sailors, Marines, and Civilians of CTF-72 and CFWP.  Their tremendous support to the warfighter and exceptional mission execution is a testament to the hard work and dedication of every member of our team.  I could not be more proud to serve alongside this amazing group of patriots. I know I am leaving a talented team in the very capable hands of a great leader, outstanding aviator, and a tremendous friend. I am confident that this team will continue to make great strides under the direction of Capt. Rutherford.”

As Commander, Task Force 72, Erickson had operational control of all forward deployed Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Forces assigned to the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet area of responsibility, to include the P-3C Orion, P-8A Poseidon, EP-3 Aries, and Mobile Tactical Operation Centers. Deployed squadron personnel conducted a wide variety of missions in support of SEVENTH Fleet initiatives, joining in exercises and engagements and promoting theater security throughout the region.

As Commander, Fleet Air Western Pacific, Erickson was the type commander in the forward operating areas of FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet as executive agent for Commander, Naval Air Forces. His command provided aviation intermediate maintenance and aviation supply support to Forward Deployed Naval Force aviation units, aviation capable ships, and airfields operating in the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleets enabling operational readiness. He was also the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization Model Manager for U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps UC-12B/F/M series aircraft, and SEVENTH Fleet Air Logistics Commander to support operational logistics for peacetime theater engagement or contingency operations.

In addition to routine operations, during his time at CTF-72 and CFWP, Erickson contributed to numerous advances in strengthening relationships with the region’s most important allies and partners, executing multilateral operations, participating in field training exercises and improving interoperability through subject matter expert exchanges.

“The hallmark of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community has been our ability to provide the Fleet commander an agile and expeditionary maritime aviation force that can respond to crises at a moment’s notice, delivering credible combat power, providing critical life-saving search and rescue capability and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations across the Indo-Pacific.  I am proud to serve alongside this great team, supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific with our allies and partners.”

Rutherford, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, assumes command following a tour as Director, Strategic Actions Group for the Chief of Naval Personnel.

“This is an exciting and extraordinary time to be part of Naval Aviation in Seventh Fleet,” said Rutherford. “We must continue to grow the warfighting effectiveness of the task force and strengthen our partnerships with friends and allies across the region.  I’m honored to join this exceptional warfighting team, and I look forward to advancing the proud legacy of these great organizations.”

Erickson’s next assignment will be as a Secretary of Defense Executive Fellow.