Rear Admiral John Smith, Jr. entered the Navy via the Aviation Officer Candidate program in 1982 and was designated a naval aviator in 1984. Prior to command, he flew with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 3 aboard the USS Saratoga (CV 60), Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 43 Detachment 1 aboard USS Ford (FF 54), and HS-4 aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). He also served as a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) instructor with HS-1.
Smith's squadron command tours include HS-11 and deployed aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, and HS-10, the FRS for the HS community. His most recent operational assignment was as commander, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Ashore, he served as deputy director of Equal Opportunity (PERS 61) in Washington, D.C. and head aviation commander helicopter detailer, Bureau of Naval Personnel (PERS 43) Millington, Tennessee.
In September 2005, he was selected to be Joint Force Maritime Air Component commander for Joint Task Force Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2008, Smith assumed command of Joint Crew Composite Squadron (JCCS) 1 in Baghdad, Iraq, responsible for fielding, sustainment and combat readiness of counter radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare systems. In 2009, he served as chief of staff for Navy Cyber Forces in Little Creek, Virginia. From 2010 to 2012, he served as deputy director, Joint lnteragency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, responsible for coordinating joint, interagency and international efforts to combat illicit drug trafficking and narcoterrorism. Smith served as commander, Joint Task Force-Guantanamo from 2012 to 2013 prior to serving as commandant, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, Norfolk, Virginia from 2013 to 2015.
Smith reported as chief of staff, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany August 2015.
He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from South Carolina State College and a master's degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. His personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and various campaign, service and unit awards. He has flown more than 4,200 hours in H-3 and H-60-F/H/B aircraft.