When I started my tenure as a Flag Officer nearly twelve years ago (December 2000), it was a very different period for our Navy and our nation. USS COLE had been attacked two months prior (and would ultimately change the way our Navy trains and conducts ATFP), but we were still nine months away from one of the most significant events in our nation’s history – the 9/11 attacks.
The attacks on 9/11, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, required our Navy to rapidly adapt and bring new capabilities to a new fight in a new environment. Consequently, over the last decade we’ve developed new Irregular Warfare capabilities, reestablished our Riverine forces, and supported the land campaign in every way possible (including deploying our Sailors into combat ashore as Individual Augmentees alongside their Marine and Army counterparts). And we’ve done it all while executing our “conventional” missions (SSBN patrols, BMD, Carrier Ops, etc.) and developing the next generation of the Navy’s warships and aircraft. While our deployments and missions over the last decade have been heavily influenced by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fundamental purpose of our Navy – to project power and influence from the sea – and our Title X responsibilities have not changed.
As we begin to wind down from the war in Afghanistan and continue the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, we must be ready for a sustained, long-term global effort. This renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific does not absolve us of our responsibilities in other parts of the world and it certainly does not mean our enemies will stop trying to harm us simply because we have other work to do. Like it or not, the world is (and will continue to be) a volatile and violent place in which new threats to our national security emerge every day. And, like it or not, our Navy is the answer to these challenges. Whether it’s the violence in Syria that threatens the stability of the Eastern Med, Iran’s continued march toward developing nuclear weapons, or ensuring free and open access to the various choke points at sea that are absolutely critical for our nation’s commerce, our Navy is on station (24x7) and ready to protect our national interests.
And that’s why we must be ready. All of the initiatives on which we’ve worked so hard the past three years – raising the bar on our pre-deployment training for our CSGs, ARG-MEUs and independent deployers, revitalizing the Navy-Marine Corps relationship (and getting back to our core Naval roots!), reinvigorating and funding the programs to ensure our ships reach expected service life, increasing and improving waterfront training, and putting our Sailors back on ships – are absolutely critical for our Sailors and ships to meet the demands of our future. Because if history is any indication of the future, our Navy will be at the forefront of our nation's response to these challenges and it will be our Sailors and ships that will carry the might and mission of the United States forward. I believe we are indeed entering a uniquely Naval-oriented era.
While we certainly can’t predict where and when the next event will occur, we must be absolutely ready to respond because I can assure you we will be called. If you wear our uniform today, you must be ready mentally and physically, for this is our time…this is your time.
All the best, JCHjr