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Old Dominion University alumnus Adm. Robert F. Willard took over as the commander of the Pacific Fleet's 170 ships and 100,000 sailors on May 8.

Willard earned his ODU master's degree in engineering management in 2005.

"For me the prospect of this command is thrilling, humbling and inspiring for the legacy that it represents," Willard said at a change of command ceremony in Hawaii.

Willard comes to the job from the Pentagon, where he served as the vice chief of naval operations.

During the 1980s, the F-14 fighter jet aviator was the operations and executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, which was featured in the Hollywood hit movie "Top Gun."

More recently, the Los Angeles native has commanded the U.S. Seventh Fleet from Japan and directed an aircraft carrier battle group from the USS Kitty Hawk.

A 1973 Naval Academy graduate, he has won many awards, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal and four Legions of Merit.

In February, the United States Senate confirmed Adm. William Fallon to be head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fallon, who received a master's degree in international studies from Old Dominion in 1981 and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1999, won confirmation from the full Senate without dissent.

This article was posted on: May 9, 2007

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