Stearney served as the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command for the U.S. 5th Fleet, said the Navy in a statement.
“Team, it’s my sad duty to inform you that today the Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and I were told that Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, our commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet, was found deceased in his residence in Bahrain today. This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet, and for the entire U.S. Navy,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in the statement.
He added: “Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father, and he was a good friend to all of us.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are investigating the matter, and they said that no foul play is suspected in his death.
Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of 5th Fleet, has assumed command of the fleet, said the Navy.
“I ask that you keep the Stearney family in your prayers and respect their privacy as they navigate through these very difficult times. We will keep you informed as we learn more. Thank you very much,” Richardson continued.
Defense Department sources told CBS News on Dec. 2 that his death was “an apparent suicide.” No further details were released.
The 5th Fleet plays a vital role in safeguarding critical points in the Middle East, including Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. It confronts Somali pirate ships as well as Iranian warships.
“We stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce where international law allows,” Stearney told reporters in September, the New York Times noted. “We are postured to defend and protect, not to cause international crises and provocation and escalation. We are here for the stability and the security of this region and for nothing else.”
Life of Service
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Stearney went to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and got an economics degree before joining the Navy in 1982.
Later, he became a pilot and logged 4,500 flight hours over the course of his career. He was appointed commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and of the Fifth Fleet, CBS noted.
“Operationally, he served in numerous strike fighter squadrons flying the FA-18 Hornet. His fleet assignments include the Golden Warriors of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-87, the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-136 and strike warfare officer for commander, Carrier Group 4. Stearney commanded the Wildcats of VFA-131 and Carrier Air Wing Seven embarked on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as chief of staff of Joint Task Force 435 and later Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435,” according to his biography.
It adds: “He is entitled to wear the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal, as well as other commendations and awards. He has accumulated more than 4,500 “mishap-free” flight hours and over 1,000 carrier-arrested landings.”
In the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. Young people can call the Kids Help Phone on 1-800-668-6868.
In Australia, the crisis support service hotline is 13 11 14 (Lifeline).
Other worldwide suicide hotlines can be found at www.befrienders.org.