Interview With U.S. 3rd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Gerald R. Beaman
Covering a 50-million mile area of operations
Vice Adm. Gerald R. Beaman assumed command of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, headquartered in San Diego, Calif., in April 2011. A native of Hammond, Ind., Beaman graduated from Marquette University with a bachelor of science in business administration and was commissioned through the NROTC Program in 1974. He was designated a naval flight officer in April 1975.
Beaman flew in the F-4J Phantom with Fighter Squadron (VF) 121 before transitioning to the F-14A Tomcat in 1976. His sea assignments included VF-32 (1976-1979), and VF-33 (1986-1988), embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS America (CV 66) in support of Operation El Dorado Canyon, and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). During Operation Desert Storm, he served as officer in charge of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) Detachment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and flew combat missions from the Persian Gulf. He commanded the VF-211 Fighting Checkmates (1995-1996) aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68). He was the assistant chief of staff for operations for commander, Carrier Group 7 (1998-1999), and he assumed command of Carrier Air Wing 2 (2000-2001) aboard USS Constellation (CV 64) in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Beaman’s shore tours include flag lieutenant and aide to commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (1979-1981); VF-101 program manager for the squadron augmentation unit (1984-1986), TOPGUN, where he served as maintenance officer, operations officer, and executive officer (1988-1992); U.S. Space Command, as chief, Global Engagement Division; and as commander, Space Control Center, Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (1996-1998). Beaman was selected as a Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group (SSG) fellow for SSG XXI (2001-2002) and was chief of staff to commander, Naval Air Forces (2002-2004). He holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College at Newport, R.I. (1992-1993). Beaman served as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1981-1984).
Selected for flag rank in 2004, Beaman’s first flag assignment was as commander, Naval Network and Space Operations Command in Dahlgren, Va., and was then subsequently appointed as the director of operations, Naval Network Warfare Command (2005-2006). He assumed command of Strike Force Training Pacific in June 2006 (2006-2008). His next assignment was deputy chief of staff operations, Allied Joint Forces Command-Naples, Italy, beginning in January 2008 (2008-2009). Prior to assuming command of 3rd Fleet, he served as deputy chief of staff, Global Force Management, Joint Operations and Fleet/Joint Training (N3/N5/N7) in Fleet Forces Command from 2009-2011.
Beaman has accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours and 1,067 carrier landings. He wears the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (5), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Strike/Flight Air Medal (2), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit, campaign, and service awards.
He recently sat down with Edward H. Lundquist to discuss his responsibilities as commander 3rd Fleet, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, and the Pacific area of responsibility in general.
Edward H. Lundquist: You are the operational commander for the 3rd Fleet area of responsibility. What does that entail?
Vice Adm. Gerald R. Beaman: Our area of responsibility is 50 million square miles of ocean, and it stretches from the West Coast of the United States, west to the International Date Line, and from the North Pole to the South Pole. I have a responsibility through the U.S. Fleet Forces Command to the commander of the U.S. Northern Command – NORTHCOM – to provide ships and aircraft for homeland defense and for defense support to civil authorities in the event of natural disasters here in the United States. Our most recent example of assistance was during the wildfires here on the West Coast, where we actually supplied helicopter support with the water buckets to help fight the fires.
We are involved with the North American Maritime Security Initiative [NAMSI], with Canada and Mexico, the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard, to provide for the security and stability of the sea lanes approaching North America. We routinely conduct exercises with the Canadian navy, Mexican navy, and with our Coast Guard partners, to exercise procedures and processes in information sharing, [and] turnover of responsibilities.
This includes live exercises with target ships that we’ve identified as contacts of interest and, according to our agreed-upon rules and regulations that we operate under, we go out and conduct a mission on this targeted vessel through the steps of turning it over as the vessel passes into different jurisdictions, whether it’s the Canadians turning it over to us if it’s inbound to a U.S. port or vice versa, and likewise with Mexico. This has gained traction within the last few years. It’s really taking on a whole new dimension where these live exercises become a part of our routine. Senior leadership of the three countries and the four services meet to review the agreement that stipulates what we can and can’t do with each other to make sure that we’ve got it right and what we might want to expand. Ten years ago that didn’t exist. We’ve always had a good working relationship with Canada, and that relationship is also growing with our partners to the south.
You’re also preparing commands for deployment?
We provide realistic and relevant training to all West Coast-based naval forces to prepare them for major combat operations, certify them for major combat operations, and then send them west.