U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Monday appointed Rear Adm. John Wade commander of the Joint Task Force of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

According to a press release from the Department of Defense, Wade’s sole responsibility is to ensure the “safe and expeditious” defueling of the troubled tanks.

Wade will work closely with the Hawaii Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the local community to defuel the Red Hill facility “while making environmentally-protective decisions,” said Austin.

Rear Admiral John Wade
Rear Admiral John Wade. U.S. Department of Defense

Hawaii’s U.S. senators welcomed the appointment.

“Shutting down Red Hill cannot be delayed,” said Sen. Brian Schatz in a press release. “With a commander now in place, the Joint Task Force can become fully operational and begin to work on-site with state, local, and community leaders to safely and quickly defuel Red Hill.”

Said Sen. Mazie Hirono, a fellow Democrat, in a separate press release, “I look forward to meeting with Rear Admiral Wade soon to discuss the critical work ahead and the importance of collaboration, transparency and garnering the trust of the community throughout this process.”

In November military families who live near the Red Hill area on Oahu were sickened by fuel ingestion. The military, which initially denied any problems, later confirmed that recent fuel leaks at the underground storage facility were to blame.

The facility sits 100 feet above an aquifer that is the island’s primary source of drinking water.

Wade assumed his current duties as director of Joint Operations, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in October 2020. He holds a master’s degree in information systems technology from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College in Washington, D.C.

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