Officer who Oversaw Purple Hill Defueling to Command Navy’s Third Fleet

Vice Adm. John Wade, former commander of the joint activity pressure that oversaw elimination of a lot of the gasoline within the Navy’s Purple Hill facility, has been formally nominated to take over the Navy’s third Fleet in San Diego.

The Pentagon on Thursday launched two prime command nominations by President Joe Biden. The announcement additionally mentioned Rear Adm. Michael Vernazza, present commander of the Fleet Info Warfare Command Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, has been nominated for promotion to vice admiral to command Naval Info Forces in Suffolk, Va. The nominations require congressional approval and are anticipated to cross.

As commander of the third Fleet, Wade would command vessels and plane primarily based in California, Washington state and Hawaii — which incorporates 5 plane service strike teams and greater than 30 submarines.

Wade had been serving as operations officer for U.S. Indo­-Pacific Command at Camp Smith earlier than he was beneficial in 2022 by then INDOPACOM Commander Adm. John Aquilino to guide Joint Job Power Purple Hill.

“I instantly considered my grandmother,” Wade later advised the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an interview. “She would speak concerning the significance and the that means of laborious work however that when laborious work contributes to the betterment of others, then there is not any better goal. As I checked out this downside, I mentioned, ‘It is a humanitarian and … an environmental mission.'”

Wade, who comes from a working-class New York household, attended the U.S. Naval Academy. His first time in Hawaii was crusing in to Pearl Harbor as a midshipman throughout a coaching cruise aboard the usGermantown in 1987. He discovered himself out and in of the islands all through his profession, however maybe no project was higher-stakes than Purple Hill.

He’d by no means even set foot inside the power till he received the mission. The Purple Hill facility’s huge gasoline tanks sit simply 100 toes above a important aquifer that almost all of Oahu depends on for ingesting water. It was constructed underground throughout World Warfare II each to cover it and defend it from Japanese forces. After the warfare it turned a important strategic gasoline reserve for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet.

It was additionally a topic of controversy. Native officers and activists raised issues that it was a menace to Oahu’s water, whereas Navy officers maintained it was very important for nationwide safety and completely secure.

However in November 2021, jet gasoline from the power tainted the Navy’s Oahu water system, which serves 93,000 folks, together with service members, navy households and civilians in former navy housing areas on the Navy waterline. A number of residents who reported getting severely in poor health are within the midst of a federal lawsuit trial enjoying out in courtroom in Honolulu.

After months of resisting a state emergency order to empty the tanks, in March 2022 the Pentagon introduced it could defuel and completely shut down the power. In September 2022, Wade took command of the duty pressure at a time when relations between native residents and navy management was at near-historic lows.

Regardless of years of assurances of security from the Navy, by then the service acknowledged that the power and the pipelines connecting it to Joint Base Pearl Harbor­-Hickam truly had fallen into deep disrepair and that the tanks and pipelines would require intensive repairs and upgrades to soundly take away the gasoline with out risking additional spills and water contamination.

“On daily basis that gasoline is sitting there’s a menace to our neighborhood and to the setting, ” Wade advised reporters at his first information convention in October 2022. He mentioned he would work to get the gasoline out by summer season of 2024, or sooner if repairs could possibly be made quicker — and pledged he would search for methods to expedite the method. He famous that it was his first project that had no finish date — there can be no change of command till the mission was over.

Wade freely admitted he had no background in engineering or gasoline storage, however mentioned he would work to get one of the best folks on the bottom — JTF-RH included specialists and specialists from every navy department together with dozens of civilians. Wade rapidly turned the face of the Purple Hill effort, discovering himself angrily shouted down at neighborhood conferences and usually confronted by Purple Hill households and activists.

However he regularly earned reward from some. He invited Board of Water Provide Supervisor Ernie Lau, a fierce critic of the Navy who for years had referred to as for Purple Hill’s shutdown, to take a seat on a activity pressure information-sharing group that included a number of native officers and neighborhood leaders.

“After I sit down as an individual, (Wade is) someone straightforward to speak to, and he seems to hear,” Lau later advised the Star-Advertiser, although he added that getting info from the navy was “nonetheless very difficult.”

Wade’s mission expanded after 1,300 gallons of poisonous firefighting foam spilled within the Purple Hill facility in November 2022. Wade initially advised reporters there was no video of the incident, however mentioned he later discovered that there was. He advised the Star-Advertiser the dearth of coordination by the varied companies and contractors working within the facility contributed to that spill and subsequent confusion. Wade and JTF-RH started overseeing all operations within the facility and retaining an in depth eye over contractors who went out and in.

By the summer season of 2023, JTF-RH had accomplished most of its repairs forward of schedule and located workarounds to hurry the method. Defueling formally started in October, and by March the duty pressure efficiently had eliminated 104,703,574 gallons from above the aquifer. Business tankers ferried gasoline to West Oahu amenities run by Island Vitality Providers at Campbell Industrial Park and to a gasoline storage level in San Diego, one within the Philippines and one other in Singapore.

Closure and remediation of Purple Hill will probably be overseen by the newly fashioned Navy Closure Job Power Purple Hill, a activity that is anticipated to take years. Throughout an exit interview earlier than formally stepping down as activity pressure commander, Wade advised the Star-Advertiser that “defueling had its personal challenges and dangers, (and that) closure and long-term environmental remediation will carry new challenges and new dangers. So it is important to the … well being of the employees and the neighborhood and the setting to concentrate on security.”

From San Diego, Wade’s space of duty on the Third Fleet will embody parts of each the Japanese and Northern Pacific stretching into components of the Arctic as competitors for affect within the area heats up with Russia and China. The Third Fleet’s missions additionally embody helping with the combat in opposition to unlawful fishing by the Oceania Maritime Safety Initiative — which conducts patrols in partnership with the Coast Guard and Pacific island international locations — in addition to drug warfare missions off the Pacific coasts of South and Central America.


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