On March 14, 1943, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Ernest J. King announced a re-designation of U.S. naval operating forces, instituting a system of numbered fleets. Even-numbered fleets were specific for the Atlantic, while odd-numbered fleets were allocated to the Pacific. The commanders of the geographically designated commands (U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces Command) are empowered to allocate operational forces to the numbered fleets as needed to execute tasks of limited time and purpose. These fleets and their subordinate task organizations have the distinct advantage of flexibility. They can easily be formed to address a specific operational need and similarly dissolved after their objective has been met or another priority arises. Commander, U.S. Second Fleet Commander, U.S. Second Fleet (C2F/COMSECONDFLT) traces its origin to the reorganization of the U.S. Navy following World War II in December 1945, and the formation of the U.S. Eighth Fleet under the command of Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher. In January 1947, Eighth Fleet was renamed Second Task Fleet. Three years later, in February 1950, the command was re-designated Second Fleet, with the primary mission of supporting the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the forward deployed U.S. 6th Fleet.
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy called on C2F to establish a quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For more than a month, C2F units operated northeast of the island, intercepting and inspecting dozens of ships for contraband approaching Cuba. Ninety ships directly involved in the quarantine had steamed for a total of 780,000 miles, while the eight aircraft carriers covered a 10,000-mile track. The whole quarantine operations were conducted by the U.S. Navy with great efficiency and precision.
OPERATION URGENT FURY
Some 20 years later in October 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered C2F to the Caribbean again, but this time to lead the rescue of the Americans on the island of Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. Leading joint forces, C2F became Commander, Joint Task Force 120 (CJTF120),and commanded units from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The invasion began on Oct. 25 and by Nov. 1, all military actions were complete, signifying the success of U.S. forces. As a key lessons learned, the interoperability of U.S. forces proved challenging, and resulted in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHILED AND DESERT STORM
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm brought together the largest force of Navy warships assembled in a single theater since World War II. C2F trained more than half of the Navy ships deployed to Southwest Asia. In August 1990, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier battle group was sent to the Arabian Gulf in response to Iraq invading Kuwait, while the USS Saratoga and USS John F. Kennedy carrier battle groups and battleship USS Wisconsin (BB 64) departed the East Coast. C2F’s guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) was responsible for launching the first Tomahawk land attack missile on Jan. 17, 1991.
OPERATIONS ENDURING FREEDOM AND IRAQI FREEDOM
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon were immediately recognized as acts of war that catapulted the U.S. military into a protracted “global war on terrorism,” with the U.S. Navy playing a critical role in the immediate military response. Aircraft carriers USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 67) and their respective air wings were tasked with providing air defense over New York City. Additionally, six Hampton Roads-based ships participated in the largest amphibious force assembled in decades for Amphibious Task Force East,the most powerful amphibious force to ever leave the East Coast.
In late 2002, C2F disembarked its command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and reestablished itself aboard Naval Station Norfolk, although C2F would later re-embark aboard USS Mount Whitney from 2004 to 2006 before permanently moving to building D-29. Joint, Maritime, and Operational Capability Following the end of the Cold War and the diminished threat from Russia, C2F stood down its “Striking Fleet Atlantic” role for NATO on Feb.22, 2005. A year later on May 31, 2006, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence (CJOS COE) was established as the multinational NATO support military body to promote the transformation of Joint Maritime Expeditionary Operations. In July 2007, further expanding its joint, maritime, and combined operational capability, C2F became the first military service three-star headquarters to be certified as joint task force capable. Additionally, C2F has served as the vanguard of the Navy wide Maritime Operations Center (MOC) capability supporting operational level of war command and control. In July 2009, for the first time in history, C2F and designated forces were assigned from U.S. Joint Forces Command to U.S. Northern Command for real-world maritime Homeland Defense deterrence operations.
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE/DISASTER RELIEF
C2F also took on the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) role supporting multiple natural disasters. In 2005, nine C2F ships including USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Iwo Jima (LSD 7) sailed into the Gulf of Mexico to carry out HA/DR efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. C2F ordered USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Nassau (LHA 4) and USS Ponce (LPD 15) to get underway in September 2008 ahead of the hurricane season, with USS Nassau directly supporting Galveston, Texas, following the devastation left by Hurricane Ike. And in January 2010, C2F provided significant maritime force HA/DR support to the people of Haiti, via U.S. Southern Command and C4F following a 7.0 earthquake.