Joseph D. Kernan

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Joseph D. Kernan
Kernan white.jpg
Born (1955-02-04) February 4, 1955 (age 62)
Travis Air Force Base
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1977 - 2013
Rank Vice Admiral
Unit SEAL Teams
Commands held United States Fourth Fleet
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command
Naval Special Warfare Command
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Defense Superior Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit (2)

Joseph D. "Joe" Kernan (born February 4, 1955) is a retired United States Navy vice admiral. His last military assignment was as the Military Deputy Commander of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Miami, Florida from May 23, 2011[1] To September 2013. He was the second-in-command of one of nine unified commands under the Department of Defense. SOUTHCOM, which conducts military operations and promotes security cooperation throughout the 16,000,000-square-mile (41,000,000 km2) area of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Admiral Kernan formerly served as the Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense from August 2009 to May 2011. Prior to that, he previously served as Commander, U.S. Fourth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command from July 1, 2008 to June 12, 2009 and as Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command from June 2007 to June 30, 2008. He assumed his current assignment in May 23, 2011.


Kernan, the son of a career Air Force pilot and Air Force nurse, was born at Travis Air Force Base, California on February 4, 1955. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1977, attended Surface Warfare Officer School, and reported to USS Horne (CG-30) based in San Diego, California.

During this tour, he served as an Engineering Officer, completed deployments to the Western Pacific and Middle East regions and was designated a Surface Warfare Officer.

Upon completion of his initial tour with the Surface Warfare community, Kernan applied for transfer to and training in the Naval Special Warfare community for qualification as a SEAL. Kernan reported to Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California and subsequently completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training with Class 117 in 1982. Following SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), he was designated as a Naval Special Warfare Officer, entitled to wear the SEAL insignia. He commanded Platoons at Underwater Demolition Team 12, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, and SEAL Team 5. Additionally while assigned to SEAL Team 5, he served as Detachment Officer-in-Charge of four deployed SEAL platoons and Deputy Commander, Naval Special Warfare Task Force, Middle East Force. He served his executive officer tour at Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 in Naval Station Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

Kernan has served as the Naval Special Warfare Officer Detailer and Community Manager, Deputy/Chief Staff Officer, Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Chief of Staff and Deputy, Naval Special Warfare Command and Director, Naval Special Warfare Branch on the Navy Staff.

He commanded SEAL Team 2 from 1994 to 1996 and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group from 1999 to Aug 2003. His joint assignments include Deputy Director and Director of Operations, Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Director of Operations, Center for Special Operations, United States Special Operations Command, MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida.

He assumed duties as Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command in June 2007.

On April 24, 2008, Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, announced that the United States Fourth Fleet would be re-established, effective July 1, with responsibility for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean Sea, as well as throughout Central and South America, with Admiral Kernan as the fleet commander, as well as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, the naval component of the United States Southern Command. Kernan became the first Navy SEAL to serve as a numbered fleet commander.[2]

On May 19, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the President has selected Kernan for appointment to the rank of vice admiral and assignment as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.[3] He assumed the assignment in June 2009.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one gold award star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Gold star
Legion of Merit with gold award star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze Star Medal with two gold award stars and "Combat V"
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Gold star
Gold star
Meritorious Service Medal with two gold award stars
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with three gold award stars
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold award star
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three bronze service stars
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal Yugoslavia ribbon bar.svg NATO Medal for Yugoslavia
United States Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with expert device.svg Navy Expert Rifleman Medal
United States Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with expert device.svg Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Kernan becomes military deputy commander of SOUTHCOM; Keen heads to Pakistan - U.S. Southern Command News Archives - May 23, 2011
  2. ^ [2] Navy Re-Establishes U.S. Fourth Fleet - DOD New Release No. 338-07 - April 24, 2008
  3. ^ [3] DefenseLink News Release: Flag Officer Assignment - May 19, 2009



 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[4]".

External links[edit]

Media related to Joseph D. Kernan at Wikimedia Commons