The admiral overseeing American naval operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia was found dead in Bahrain on Saturday, the Navy said.
The officer, Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney, was found dead in his residence in Bahrain, Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement, noting that no foul play was suspected. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, Admiral Richardson said.
Admiral Stearney took charge in May of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, as well as a broader naval coalition there that includes more than 20,000 United States and allied maritime forces.
“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet, and for the entire Navy,” Admiral Richardson said in the statement. “Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior.”
The American-led naval forces play an important role in safeguarding such vital regional waterways as the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Red Sea. In recent years, the naval forces have confronted threats including marauding pirates, harassing Iranian revolutionary guard attack boats, weapons smugglers, and Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen firing missiles at commercial ships.
“We stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce where international law allows,” Admiral Stearney told reporters in a conference call in September. “We are postured to defend and protect, not to cause international crises and provocation and escalation. We are here for the stability and the security of this region and for nothing else.”
Admiral Stearney, an FA-18 fighter pilot and former Top Gun instructor with more than 1,000 landings on aircraft carriers, had previously served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as chief of staff of Joint Task Force 435, which trains and advises Afghan military and security forces conducting detention and other operations there. Other previous assignments included stints at the military’s Transportation Command, commander of the Navy’s warfare development command, and director of operations for the Central Command, according to his Navy biography.
Admiral Stearney, a native of Chicago, entered the Navy in 1982 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. He became a Navy aviator in 1984 and served in strike fighter squadrons flying the FA-18 Hornet using the call sign “Sterno.” He eventually rose to command the air wing aboard the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to his Navy biography.
Rear Adm. Paul J. Schlise, the deputy commander of Fifth Fleet, has assumed command, Admiral Richardson said. Vice Adm. James Malloy, a deputy chief of naval operations, is preparing to fly out to Bahrain this weekend to take command in the interim.