From Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia Public Affairs
NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia (EURAFSWA) and Commander, Maritime Air Naples held a change of command ceremony Aug. 20 aboard Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.
Rear Adm. Tony E. Gaiani relieved Rear Adm. David J. Mercer as commander, EURAFSWA, and commander, Maritime Air Naples.
The outdoor ceremony was attended by distinguished NATO, U.S. and Italian government officials. Italian Navy Vice Adm. Maurizio Gemignani, commander, Allied Maritime Command Naples, was the ceremony's presiding official.
Vice Adm. Michael Vitale, commander, Navy Installations Command, the ceremony's guest speaker, reflected on the ongoing changes at Navy installations in the region and around the world.
"It's a new era. If we ever wanted to reinvent our shore platform, now is the time. It is why we select shore leaders like Adm. Mercer and Adm. Gaiani," said Vitale.
During Mercer's tenure, he assumed administrative and operational control over Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, U.S. Africa Command's only base on the African continent, only months after reporting to Naples as commander, Navy Region Europe in March 2008.
In 2009, Mercer facilitated Navy Region Europe's merger with Navy Region Southwest Asia, leading the command through an official name change that now reflects its broader area of responsibility. The region currently includes six major military installations on three continents.
For his outstanding service and devotion to duty, Mercer was presented with the Legion of Merit at the ceremony.
"Everything Rear Adm. Mercer and his team have accomplished here in EURAFSWA in the past 31 months has prepared [Mercer] well for his next assignment in Washington, D.C.," said Vitale. "To [Mercer] and the team, I say well done and thank you."
Mercer attributed EURAFSWA's milestones to the team of installation and region personnel serving as the logistics and support arm of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Naval Forces Africa and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
"I can't tell you how gratified I am with what you've been able to achieve. Thank you for making good on many of the promises I made to our superior officers," said Mercer.
While directly addressing Italian dignitaries in attendance, Mercer thanked them for providing U.S. personnel a wonderful place to live and work.
"Italy and the United States have been very good, strong allies since World War II," said Mercer. "We appreciate all you've done for us, and we thank you for your hospitality."
Mercer was relieved by Gaiani, a fellow naval aviator who previously commanded Navy Region Midwest.
Gaiani was warmly received by Italian attendees during the ceremony when he opened his remarks in their native tongue.
"This assignment is sort of a homecoming for me. I come home again to naval aviation, as commander, Maritime Air Naples. I come home again to NATO, in my third assignment to the alliance," said Gaiani. "And, I come home again to Italy, which is where Colleen and I served in our first assignment, which seems to be a just few years ago now.
"Colleen and I are thrilled to be back in beautiful Italy, and thrilled to have this opportunity that this change of command represents for us," said Gaiani.
As region commander, Gaiani oversees a total workforce of 4,417 host nation employees, U.S. employees and military members responsible for providing efficient and effective shore service support to U.S. and allied forces in the Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia area of responsibility.
As Commander, Maritime Air Naples, Gaiani coordinates NATO maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) activity in NATO's Southern Region area of operations in the Mediterranean. In addition, he maintains command and control of assigned MPA forces in support of Allied Maritime Command Naples – one of three component commands under Allied Joint Force Command Naples.