MANAMA, Bahrain -- Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, is slated to take command this week of the Navy's mission in the Middle East, leading sailors in Bahrain in the wake of the sudden death of a three-star admiral.
Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, who led U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the 5th Fleet, was found dead at his Bahrain home Saturday. A private memorial was being planned on the Navy's base in Bahrain, officials said Monday.
Navy officials declined to comment on reports by CBS News and USNI News, which cited unnamed defense officials that Stearney died in an apparent suicide.
While Stearney's death is under investigation, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Saturday no foul play was suspected.
Richardson tapped Malloy -- now en route to Bahrain -- soon after Stearney's death to assume temporary command.
Meanwhile, 5th Fleet sailors continue to carry out operations in a region where countering Iran and ensuring freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf is one of the command's top priorities.
"Scheduling has not been affected; Fleet is continuing operations," said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Gen. Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command chief, said Sunday he was confident the sailors would carry out their missions, but that it would be with "heavy hearts."
Stearney, described by Richardson as a "decorated naval warrior" and a "devoted husband and father," assumed command of 5th Fleet in May. Upon taking command, Stearney said he was he was ready to work with partners to "to keep conflict out of the maritime and promote security and stability."
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations stretches from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman to the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region includes three strategic shipping choke points: the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
Stearney earned his commission in 1982 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. He graduated from the prestigious Navy Fighter Weapons School, popularly known as TOPGUN, where he later served as an instructor.
Stearney flew the F/A-18 Hornet in multiple squadrons and served aboard the aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS George Washington and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also served in Afghanistan as chief of staff of Joint Task Force 435, which advises Afghan security forces.
His flag assignments included tours as commander, U.S. Transportation Command's Joint Enabling Capabilities Command; commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic; commander, Carrier Strike Group 4; commander, Navy Warfare Development Command and director of operations, U.S. Central Command.