ASAN, Guam (June 18, 2021) – Rear Adm. John V. Menoni relinquished duties as commander of Joint Region Marianas (JRM) to Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson during a change of command ceremony held at the Guam High School gymnasium onboard U.S. Naval Hospital Guam in Agana Heights, June 16.
Presiding Officer Vice Adm. Bill R. Merz, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, commended Menoni as his personal hero, an extraordinary leader, and a sterling example of having the right leader in the right place at the right time.
“I truly could not imagine a better partner during the complex dances of 7th Fleet exercises and operations in and around the waters of Guam,” Merz said. “All under the cloud of COVID, the recovery of TR (USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)), and then your relentless and ongoing drive towards normalcy in returning to our daily work. You not only survived COVID, you slayed it. You not only survived the most complex C2 structure in the entire military, you thrived within it. And as you went, so did 7th Fleet, and I thank you for that.”
Following his remarks, Merz, on behalf of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, presented Menoni with the Defense Superior Service Medal. “Rear Admiral John Menoni distinguished himself by superior performance in the position with significant responsibility as the United States senior military official in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.” The award citation further stated of Menoni, “Your team flawlessly managed critical efforts in providing installation support to 35 Navy commands located on four geographically separate sites across 32,000 acres of land, as well as logistics to vital operational units of 3rd and 7th Fleets.”
Menoni, as the senior military official in the region, was also credited for superior military and civil affairs acumen, which ensured that the ties between the U.S. and regional allies were strengthened.
In March 2020, the first few cases of COVID-19 were reported on Guam. Together, local and military leaders made strategic decisions early on to work closely and collaboratively to find solutions and to mitigate its impact on the people of Guam and the CNMI. Menoni was recognized for standing firmly at the forefront of this fight, and working alongside Governor of Guam Lourdes Leon Guerrero with her team to ensure unity of effort.
Leon Guerrero praised Menoni for his excellent leadership during this time and presented him with the ‘Ancient Order of the Chamorri’ as a sincere token of gratitude. This award is the highest recognition possible presented only by the Governor of Guam to a non-Chamorro recipient.
“He was sent here to do a job and he did it with excellence and leadership decisions and actions that considered all issues,” said Leon Guerrero. “He has shown respect for local government and required same respect from his command. We have worked collaboratively, professionally and with care and compassion together during the pandemic. When I needed his help, he came through when he needed my help we came through.”
Menoni extended his appreciation to Leon Guerrero for her leadership during one of the toughest times in the island’s history. “Governor Leon Guerrero, as a Naval Officer I am a student of leadership, always trying to improve as a leader. When I see good leadership, I learn from it, I highlight it and I celebrate it. During this crisis, when others couldn’t or wouldn’t help, you said to me, ‘we have to take care of the people who defend us, it is the humane thing to do’. That simple statement meant the world to me and thousands of Sailors. Thank you for being a battle buddy, wingman, shipmate and the leader Guam needed when we were all caught in the middle of this crisis.”
Menoni went on to extend his gratitude to various groups and individuals within the community – both military and civilians. He also recognized the enduring support he’s received from his family.
“I would like to thank the most important people in my life - my family - my wife, Julie, and our children, Molly, Tommy and Maggie. As always, Julie has continued to steer the ship in our family making it possible for me to focus on being here for the past two years and to focus on the job, the region and the partnerships that are necessary to ensure the mission of maintaining a stable, free, and open Indo-Pacific,” Menoni said.
He then reflected on his tenure as the JRM commander, and acknowledged that his priorities focused on building strong relationships between the military and the local governments of Guam and the CNMI; relationships based on open communication, mutual respect and trust.
“You know, when I first took command, I committed to focusing on our mission first and always looking after our shipmates. I committed to open and transparent communications with both the military and civilian populations. I asked that we all continue to take a regional view towards governance, that we work towards solutions that were not the perfect solution for a few, but the best solution for most.”
Newly selected and incoming JRM Commander, Nicholson, who recently served as executive assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. is looking forward to his new and expanded role. “I have only been in the region for just over eleven days, but the beauty of the islands is breathtaking, and the warmness of everyone I have met has been inspiring. I look forward to working with you.”
After a combined total of eight years spent serving in this region, Menoni said he regards the Mariana Islands as his second home. He has been assigned commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two in Virginia.