Vince Crawley's Africa Blog

AFRICOM Founder & First Deputy, Robert Moeller, Passes Away in Washington, D.C.

Posted in Uncategorized by Vince Crawley on March 31, 2011

STUTTGART, Germany - Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller in April 2010. U.S. Africa Command's first deputy to the commander for military operations passed away in Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Vince Crawley)

I posted this yesterday on our main website, www.africom.mil

STUTTGART, Germany, Mar 30, 2011— Retired Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller, a founder of U.S. Africa Command who led early planning efforts, served as the director of the U.S. AFRICOM Transition Team and then as the first deputy to the commander for military operations, traveling to dozens of nations to coordinate partnerships between African and U.S. militaries, passed away March 28, 2011, in the Washington, D.C., area following a nearly two-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Moeller turned 60 in February and served 36 years in the United States Navy.

A memorial for friends and family was scheduled for April 1 in Alexandria, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to be made to the ALS Association of Greater Washington.

Moeller called his work with U.S. AFRICOM “the highlight of my career.” In an interview shortly before he departed the command in April 2010, Moeller said it was an honor “to have been involved in this since the earliest days and to see the command mature to where we are now and, more importantly, see the progress that we’re making with our African partners in … working with them to develop their capability and capacity to meet their challenges.”

In late July 2010, days before his retirement from the U.S. Navy, Foreign Policy magazine published a lengthy article by Moeller. In it, Moeller wrote: “As we conduct our daily and weekly activities across Africa we believe we share a long-term vision with our African partners: Sustained security programs can, over time, help support the conditions for economic development, social development, and improvements in health — so that people will continue to see progress in their lives and growing prosperity in their communities.”

In August 2006, the Defense Department directed U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to advise on establishing a new command arrangement for U.S. military interests in Africa. In September 2006, EUCOM recommended creating a new command for Africa.

Moeller at the time was serving as special assistant to the commander of U.S. Central Command when, in the early fall of 2006, he was asked to be executive director to the U.S. Africa Command Implementation Planning Team in Washington, D.C.

Working with a deputy director, U.S. Ambassador Robert Loftis from the U.S. Department of State, the planning team included representatives from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies working in Africa. Moeller’s team developed the then-unique arrangement of having two deputies to the commander: one with a traditional military role, and one a senior State Department Foreign Service officer to help the Defense Department better understand and better support the work of the non-military agencies that do the majority of U.S. government work Africa.

Moeller became executive director of the U.S. AFRICOM Transition Team when the command’s creation was formally announced in February 2007. After the command was formally established on October 1, 2007, Moeller became the first Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations, serving alongside Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, who was Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities.

Moeller departed U.S. Africa Command on April 12, 2010 to serve as a special assistant to Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. Moeller’s retirement ceremony took place July 16, 2010, and he formally retired on August 1.

Following his retirement, Moeller served as a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.

A New Jersey native and son of a World War II Navy veteran, Moeller graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1974 receiving his commission from the Notre Dame NROTC program.

Trained as a surface warfare officer, he served in a variety of sea and shore assignments, including joint duty. At sea, his assignments included USS Albany (CG 10), flagship for Commander, 2nd and 6th Fleets, where he served as talos fire control officer and boilers officer; USS Julius A. Furer (FFG 6); combat systems and material officer on the staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 36; USS Valley Forge (CG 50) as pre-commissioning engineer officer; USS Belknap (CG 26), flagship for Commander, 6th Fleet, as both executive officer and later commanding officer (CO) and USS Port Royal (CG 73) as Commanding Officer.

His CO tour in Belknap included initial Partnership for Peace operations, United Nations/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operations Provide Promise and Deny Flight, and the first Navy visits to Odessa, Ukraine; and Novorossiysk, Russia.

Ashore, Moeller served in OPNAV in the Systems Analysis Division (OP 96) as surface ASW and IUSS analyst; the Program Resource Appraisal Division (OP 91) as Net Assessment analyst; SECNAV Office of Program Appraisal (OPA) as Surface Warfare and C4I analyst; OSD’s Office of Director Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) as Maritime Warfare analyst; and CO, Surface Warfare Officers School.

In 1989, Moeller was selected as the Navy Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He earned a master’s degree in National Security Studies from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Moeller served as deputy chief of staff for Operations, Plans, Policy and Training (N3N5N7) and as director for Operations (J3), Joint Task Force (JTF) – 519 for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet from May 2001 through August 2003 and as commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 1/Commander, Ronald Reagan Strike Group from August 2003 through August 2004. Moeller served as the director, Strategy, Plans and Policy (J5) and as special assistant to the Commander, U.S. Central Command from August 2004 through August 2007. He served as deputy to the commander for military operations, U.S. Africa Command, until April 2010.

Moeller’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Gold Stars, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Gold Star.

Moeller is survived by his wife, Mary (Sparks) Rejent-Moeller; and their daughters Kate and Laura Moeller.

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5 Responses

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  1. Forevah said, on June 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I thought Moeller was still alive. As an African, I was among the journalists swearing at him when he came to Abuja, Nigeria to explain AFRICOM. Even though; we never had agreements on US policy with AFRICOM, he was a real gentleman. I just wished he never participated in constructing that colonial tool called AFRICOM. Rest in peace US Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller, you earned your stars.

    • Vince Crawley said, on September 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      Forevah,
      Appreciate your thoughts and I’m often fascinated by your comments on our YouTube site — they help people understand the strong emotions — both positive and negative — that many in Africa have toward the United States. On the other hand, should a journalist be “swearing” at someone during a news conference? I know neutrality and impartiality are difficult if not impossible to achieve, but they remain noble ideals for journalists and those who truly wish to have lasting influence. One of the most electrifying interviews I ever conducted was with a local official in the Srpska side of the divided Bosnia — he spoke chillingly of a nation that could not be reunited because of ethnic hatred between Muslims and Christians. I wrote a story that quoted him extensively, but nothing I wrote was judgmental. I simply let him tell his own story and allowed the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about whether this man would promote peace or would foment division and disunity.
      Vince

  2. Jerry Mullins said, on October 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Admiral Moeller was my executive officer when I was stationed on the USS Belknap in 1987. The leadership style he exhibited was so very different from his predecessor. ADM Moeller was a true gentleman, whereas the XO he replaced was a true bully. In my role as the ship’s journalist, I had to work closely with the XO. The guy before Moeller made my life as a 23-year old sailor hell. I could do no right no matter how hard I tried. When Moeller reported aboard, I felt beaten down by the previous XO, but after our first encouraging meeting, I knew I was going to be supported and appreciated my last few months on the ship. My last Navy evaluation I got before my discharge was signed by Moeller. I just dug it out and read it again.What a classy guy. He wrote the narrative himself and signed the eval. I remember him calling me into his stateroom to sign my eval. He seemed to know I had been through the ringer. The kindness in his voice and eyes will never be forgotten. I did not know that he had died until seeing a post on Facebook. Vice Admiral Moeller, thank you for being such a great leader and shipmate. This lowly squid will never forget you.

    — Jerry Mullins, former Navy Journalist 2nd Class, USN 1983-1988

    • Vince Crawley said, on October 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      Jerry,
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and recollections.
      Vince

  3. Jim Gensch said, on October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    As a member of the USS Belknap DLG/CG -26 Association. I will make sure that Admiral Moeller will be Listed at our Vacant Chair Memorial Ceremony.at our reunion on Oct. 22,2011 in St. Louis, MO. He was the last CO of the USS Belknap when it was Decommissioned in 1995.
    USS Belknap was graced with the Navy’s greatest Commanding Officers, starting with Captain John T. Law.

    We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
    There will be one vacant chair.
    We shall linger to caress him
    While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.


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