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Naval Officer Nominated to Pacific Command Earned Master's at ODU

A graduate of Old Dominion University's master's degree program in engineering management has been recommended by President Barack Obama for appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Adm. Robert F. Willard, a Los Angeles native, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1973.

Willard completed his master's in Old Dominion University's Engineering Management program in July 2005, while he was Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Resit Unal, chair of the Engineering Management Department, said the accomplishment is proof of the value of the union between ODU and the Navy.

"The nationally ranked Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program at Old Dominion University is designed for nuclear trained Naval officers who meet specific entrance requirements," Unal said.

"The flexibility provided by this asynchronous program enables nuclear-trained officers to complete their masters degrees at sea or ashore while meeting their very busy career schedules."

To date, more than 550 naval officers have received their MEM from ODU.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Willard, who took command of the Pacific Fleet in May 2007, will succeed Adm. Timothy Keating, who has been commander of the Pacific Command since March 2007. Keating's plans are unknown, according to a military spokeswoman.

Before taking over the Pacific Fleet, based at Pearl Harbor, Willard was vice chief of naval operations. Prior to that, he was deputy and chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet, and he has served as commander of Carrier Group 5 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and the U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

An F-14 aviator, he also has served as operations officer and executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School and commanded the Screaming Eagles of Fighter Squadron 51.

Willard's decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit. He received the ODU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005.

The U.S. Pacific Command, based at Camp H.M. Smith on Oahu, is the largest of the nation's military commands, with 250,000 personnel and a geographic area stretching from the West Coast of the United States to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. The commander oversees the four component commands - the Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, the U.S. Army Pacific and the U.S. Marine Forces Pacific - all headquartered in Hawaii.

This article was posted on: May 28, 2009

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