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Joseph D. Kernan
Kernan white.jpg
Born February 4, 1955(1955-02-04) (age 65)
Place of birth Travis Air Force Base
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1977 - present
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 United States Navy vice admiral. He serves as the Military Deputy Commander of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Miami, Florida. He assumed his current assignment on May 23, 2011.[1] He is 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 1981. 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 and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. 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 decorationsEdit

Defense Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one gold award star
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
US Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg
Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Gold star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit with gold award star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze Star Medal with two gold award stars and "Combat V"
Defense Meritorious Service ribbon.svg Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Gold star
Gold star
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Meritorious Service Medal with two gold award stars
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation ribbon.svg
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with three gold award stars
Us jointservachiev rib.svg Joint Service Achievement Medal
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold award star
Combat Action Ribbon.svg Combat Action Ribbon
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award ribbon.svg Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Expeditionary ribbon.svg Navy Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
AFEMRib.svg Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal ribbon.svg Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service ribbon.svg Humanitarian Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.svg
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three bronze service stars
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal Yugoslavia ribbon bar NATO Medal for Yugoslavia
USN Expert Rifle Ribbon Navy Expert Rifleman Medal
USN Expert Pistol Shot Ribbon Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal

Image galleryEdit


  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



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