Biden Promotes Commanding Officer Cleaning Up Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Mess

Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, the US Navy announced that President Joe Biden had nominated Rear Adm. John F. Wade for appointment to the grade of vice admiral. He will remain at the helm of Joint Task Force Red Hill in Honolulu, Hawaii. Wade’s team is cleaning up and shuttering the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

President Joe Biden wants to pin a third star on the Navy leader cleaning up Hawaii’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday, Nov. 16, that Rear Adm. John F. Wade has been nominated to become a vice admiral. If confirmed by the Senate, Wade will remain at the helm of Joint Task Force Red Hill in Honolulu.

A year ago, families on the island of Oahu discovered that spills at the bulk fuel storage facility had contaminated the Navy’s drinking water system, triggering a March 7 decision by the Pentagon to shutter the site and clean up the environmental damage.

Wade’s promotion came a day after Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters the Red Hill debacle had “created a trust deficit” between the military and Hawaii’s citizens, “and that it’s incumbent upon the department to earn back that trust.”

Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage

US Navy Rear Adm. John Wade, the Joint Task Force-Red Hill commander, introduces himself to the Fuel Tank Advisory Committee held virtually on board Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Nov. 9, 2022. Hosted by the Hawaii State Department of Health, the committee studies issues related to leaks of field-constructed underground fuel storage, including the tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

When contacted by Coffee or Die Magazine, military officials at the Pentagon said they hoped to have a statement about Wade’s proposed promotion by early Thursday.

Wade’s task force is in charge of defueling Red Hill, a process called “unpacking.” Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 3, crews removed more than 1 million gallons of three different grades of fuel from pipelines connecting the storage facility with multiple refueling points on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, according to Wade’s command.

The next phase in the defueling process involves repairing the lines and tanks, and modifying the Red Hill complex to reduce the chance of spills while crews continue defueling.

Pentagon spokesperson Ryder said Red Hill should finish defueling by June of 2024, although he said Wade’s team will continue to work with the Hawaii Department of Health and the US Environmental Protection Agency to expedite the process.

Bulk fuel

US Navy Rear Adm. John Wade, the commander of Joint Task Force-Red Hill, talks with Capt. Shawn Triggs, Naval Supply Systems Command, on board the US Navy Fuel Oil Barge, during an unpacking operation at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Oct. 28, 2022. The unpacking operation removed 1 million gallons of fuel from three primary fuel pipelines connecting the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility to fuel points on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

A native of Port Washington, New York, Wade graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1990. His sea duty includes the Spruance-class destroyer Arthur W. Radford and the guided-missile destroyer Benfold, and he was executive officer of the guided-missile cruiser Cape St. George.

Wade has commanded the coastal patrol ship Firebolt, the guided-missile destroyer Preble, Destroyer Squadron 29, and Carrier Strike Group 12.

Ashore, he’s helmed the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, directed the US Pacific Fleet’s Maritime Operations, and was director of operations for US Indo-Pacific Command.

He also served with the Army’s 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions as the commander of the Joint/Interagency Provincial Reconstruction Team in Khost, Afghanistan.

 Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage

Safety experts and first responders identify hazards to eliminate in the tunnels during the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility Stakeholder Safety Walk Through in Halawa, Hawaii, Oct. 12, 2022. Joint Task Force-Red Hill was established by the Department of Defense to ensure the safe and expeditious defueling of the site. US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

US Army photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh.

Wade is a recipient of the Vice Adm. E.C. Waller and Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley leadership awards, and his decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and Army Combat Action Badge.

The Pentagon also announced that Biden has recommending elevating Navy Capt. Jonathan T. Stephens to the grade of rear admiral (lower half).

Stephens is the interim lead special trial counsel at the Navy’s Office of Special Trial Counsel in Washington, DC.

Read Next: First for the Corps: Female Marine To Command Silent Drill Platoon

Carl came to Coffee or Die Magazine after stints at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
With the US and India deepening their military ties, the Himalayan mountain chain marks another geopolitical flashpoint with China.
With its iconic folding wings and six machine guns, the Corsair proved exceptionally lethal in World War II and beyond.
Letter bombs mailed to the US Embassy in Madrid and Spanish government offices triggered elevated security at Naval Station Rota.
The Air Force will officially reveal the replacement for the B-2 stealth bomber on Friday, Dec. 2.
When he was released, after 28 months as a prisoner, he thought he would face charges. Instead, he was told he’d won the highest award for valor.
A Connecticut man faces up to 20 years behind bars for trying to join Islamic State group terrorists.
The annual matchup was first played in 1890 and has since become something much bigger — and more important — than just a football game.
A blaze erupted on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, injuring nine sailors before it was extinguished.