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Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
March 19, 2020

First African American Woman Takes Command of MSCLANT
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From Military Sealift Command Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) – Military Sealift Command’s leadership in the Atlantic changed hands, when Navy Capt. Janice G. Smith relieved Navy Capt. Hans E. Lynch as commander of Norfolk-based Military Sealift Command Atlantic during a change of command ceremony held at Naval Station Norfolk outside of MSC’s headquarters, March 19, 2020. Smith is the first African American woman to command MSCLANT.

Lynch will assume duties as chief of staff for MSC headquarters. “I would say my whole career has really prepared me for this next assignment, and my time as MSCLANT commodore has given me valuable experience, especially in the Strategic Sealift realm,” Lynch said.

“Sealift remains the primary method for transporting military equipment, supplies, and material around the world. With the return to peer competition and access to sea lanes no longer guaranteed, it is important that the Navy and MSC train together in order to ensure the successful delivery and sustainment of combat power through Merchant Marine shipping,” according to Rear Adm. Michael A. Wettlaufer, commander, Military Sealift Command and the ceremony’s guest speaker. 

Lynch, a native of New York City, assumed command of MSCLANT in 2018, maintaining daily oversight of all MSC ships in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico performing missions from combat logistics to strategic sealift.

During his tenure, Lynch oversaw 31combat logistics force ship deployments to support the U.S. Navy’s carrier strike groups; 23 major fleet exercises in support of carrier and expeditionary strike groups, independent deployers, and NATO coalition forces, and 27 prepositioning ships returning to the United States from the Pacific for scheduled maintenance and major shipyard availabilities.  In addition, Lynch executed the movement of ships out of harm’s way in the east and Gulf coasts during multiple hurricanes and severe weather events.

Smith, a native of Jamaica West Indies, made history for a second time in 2016, when she became the first immigrant of Jamaican descent to command a destroyer when she assumed command of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79). She is also one of only two active duty African American women within the U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Community that is screened for Major Command.

Before assuming command of MSCLANT, Smith served on the staff of Carrier Strike Group Five, embarked on the forward deployed USS Ronald Regan (CVN 76), conducting operations in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility, to include two deployments to the Western Pacific.

MSC is represented by five geographic area commands (Atlantic, Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Far East), which exercise tactical control of all assigned forces.  The area command staffs are primarily responsible for the execution of strategic sealift missions.  MSC area commanders are Navy captains who serve as the primary points of contact for MSC customers and numbered fleet commanders in their respective areas.  These area commanders also serve as the MSC commander’s direct link to MSC ships, providing maintenance oversight, logistics coordination, and other needed services.

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