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Blair Succeeds Prueher as Pacific Commander

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Feb. 22, 1999 – Adm. Dennis C. Blair took the helm of Pacific Command here Feb. 20 in ceremonies with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen presiding.

Blair, former director of the Joint Staff in Washington, succeeds Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, who retired after 35 years of service. Cohen praised Blair as an innovative thinker and a man upon whom he has relied for everything from "deployment orders to budget issues."

Cohen presented Prueher with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and called him "the face of American military engagement" in the Asia-Pacific region. "With foresight and innovation, he has helped craft and enhance our relationships with 43 nations spread over the world's largest ocean," the secretary said. "Indeed, the footprints of his leadership stretch from Washington to Beijing, from Anchorage to Australia."

Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of naval operations, earlier presented the Distinguished Public Service Award to Prueher's wife, Suzanne. He praised her for tireless work on the behalf of service members and their families, noting her extensive efforts to improve service families' quality of life in the Pacific theater.

Also attending the ceremonies were Sens. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Ted Stevens of Alaska, Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley, and representatives from Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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