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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Robert M. Clark, USN (Ret.)

March 1, 2023 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral (upper half) Robert M. “Bob” Clark on 15 February 2023 at age 72. Rear Admiral Clark entered the U.S. Navy in August 1972 via Officer Candidate School and served as a surface warfare officer. His last assignment was Director, Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, before he retired in 2008.

Bob Clark attended Allentown College of Saint Francis de Sales, where he graduated with honors in 1972 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and a minor in mathematics. He received the Lambda Omega Chi Award for excellence in economics, graduating first in the department. In August 1972, he entered Officer Candidate School at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, and was commissioned an ensign on 15 December 1972. He then reported to the Surface Warfare Officer School Basic Course at Newport. 

In February 1973, Ensign Clark reported to the newly commissioned Newport (LST-1179,) serving as first division/assistant weapons officer and combat information center (CIC) officer as the ship conducted trials, refresher training, and extended joint operations in the Caribbean, North Sea, and North/East Atlantic. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in December 1974 and earned his surface warfare officer (SWO) designation in October 1975. In February 1976, Lieutenant (j.g.) Clark was briefly assigned to frigate Truett (FF-1095) as CIC officer for a UNITAS exercise cruise around South America.

In March, he attended the SWO Department Head Course at the Destroyer School, Naval Station Newport. In October 1976, Clark reported to destroyer Johnston (DD-821) as operations officer and was promoted to lieutenant in January 1977. During this tour, Johnston earned two Battle Efficiency Awards and six department awards, and was runner-up for the Arleigh Burke award as the most improved ship in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In March 1979, Lieutenant Clark assumed duty as operations officer for Destroyer Squadron THREE ZERO (DESRON 30), serving aboard six different destroyers. He was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School and as an Olmsted Scholar but chose to enter the U.S. Naval Reserve in November 1980.

In May 1982, he was promoted to lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve, and in September 1988, he was promoted to commander. In September 1990, Commander Clark was recalled to active duty for Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, serving as the N51 plans officer for Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) until March 1991. While in reserve status, he served with units associated with Fleet Training Group, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, Naval Surface Group Mediterranean, Naval Forces Europe, and Naval Reserve Readiness Command  Region 4. 

In October 1983, Clark was assigned as chief staff officer of Naval Reserve Commander, Naval Surface Group Mediterranean Detachment 106. He was promoted to captain on 1 February 1994.  

In August 1995, Captain Clark was assigned as Naval Reserve Commander, Naval Surface Group Mediterranean Detachment 105. In February 1997, he assumed duty as special deputy for readiness, Naval Reserve Readiness Command, Region 4, Fort Dix, New Jersey. In October 1997, he was assigned to Naval Reserve Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Detachment 130, London, United Kingdom, and became the first Naval Reserve officer to serve as chief of staff to the commander in chief. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 October 1999.

In October 1999, Rear Admiral Clark assumed command of both Military Sealift Command, Europe and Military Sealift Command, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In October 2001 he became deputy commander of Second Fleet/commander, Amphibious Operations Second Fleet. In March 2002, he assumed additional duty as commander, Readiness Command Mid-Atlantic, responsible for 10,000 Reservists across five states and the District of Columbia. He was promoted to rear admiral (upper half) on 1 January 2003.

In October 2004, Rear Admiral Clark was assigned as director of the Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Naval Forces Europe. He retired on 1 April 2008.

Rear Admiral Clark’s awards include the Legion of Merit (at least one, probably two awards); Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal (six awards); Meritorious Unit Commendation; Battle Efficiency Ribbon (two awards); National Defense Service Medal (two awards); Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (three awards); Overseas Service Ribbon (six awards); Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device and Bronze Hourglass; and Expert Pistol Shot Medal.
Rear Admiral Clark’s civilian occupation was listed as president of BC International in Irwin, Pennsylvania (a global energy consultant company focused on electric power utilities and the energy markets in Central/Eastern Europe). He was also president of International Energy Services in Washington, DC. In addition he was on the boards of several domestic and international companies.

To achieve command and attain flag rank in the Naval Reserve (Navy Reserve after 2005) requires extraordinary dedication and sacrifice in time away from home and civilian occupation. Rear Admiral Clark clearly made that sacrifice. As an example, as a captain he performed 26 significant training duty assignments, most to Europe and the Mediterranean, but some to South Korea as well as elsewhere in the United States. He was the first Naval Reserve Officer to serve as a chief of staff for a four-star commander in chief (CINCUSNAVEUR). He performed very valuable service as the director of the Maritime Partnership Program in the years after 9/11, increasing the operational capability and interoperability of friendly nation navies. He excelled in all assignments as he advanced through the ranks, enhancing the reputation of the Naval Reserve as a ready force, able to meet any challenge. The Navy is grateful for his service and the sacrifice made by his family so that he could continue to serve.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Clark.