Remarks by Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, Commander, NORAD and USNORTHCOM

By Commissioning, USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE (DDG 110) Berth 2 | Alabama State Docks, Mobile, AL | June 04, 2011

Representative Bonner.

Sponsors Mrs. Diane Lawrence, Dr. Laurie Lawrence, Captain Wendy Lawrence, and other members of the Lawrence family.

Assistant Secretary Garcia.

Distinguished former Prisoners of War.

Members of the Naval Academy Class of 1951.

Judge Collier and Admiral Kelly–who by the way commanded ENTERPRISE 20 years before me--andmembers of the USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE Commissioning Committee . . . many thanks to you and the Pensacola community for executing this labor of love with such class.

Fellow flag officers.

Members of the fantastic industry and Navy team who built this beautiful warship . . . including some of the very tradesmen who poured themselves into turning cold steel into fighting steel.

Mr. Ross Perot, who is such a great friend of the Navy, and of the Lawrence family, and of this ship. . .

Other friends of the Navy . . . and I assume everyone here is a friend of the Navy . . .

And most especially: Captain, officers, chief petty officers, and crew members of USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE.

This is a special morning for everyone here, rich with tradition and honor . . . in a place not far from our Navy’s victory at Mobile Bay . . . on the anniversary of our victory at Midway . . . and in the presence of some of the most honorable men I can imagine, our nation’s former Prisoners of War . . .

We are here to commission a fine and fast warship . . . a destroyer bearing the name of Admiral William Porter Lawrence . . . a name rich with echoes of Navy history . . . and in so doing we honor a distinguished naval officer, his wife and family, and the many here who have served with Admiral Lawrence . . . and who are honored to call him their friend and mentor.

Who could be here this morning in any capacity and not feel that Bill Lawrence and our country expect a great deal from all of us--especially this crew--as we commission this ship and honor her namesake?

I will dispense--because it’s so hard to go last--with the review of Admiral Lawrence’s wonderful career and life . . . and also because it’s so dreadfully hot . . . but I can tell you that his service and leadership as a POW--to echo my predecessors on the podium--for six years--and so eloquently described by Mr. Perot during this ship’s christening--is a part of naval legend.

He and many others were heroes among heroes in leading the resistance of our airmen prisoners in Vietnam.

Indeed, we should recognize those men who are with us today--because, consistent with our ship’s motto: “They never gave in.”

So for those in the audience who served with Admiral Lawrence in prison in Vietnam, I thank you again, for what you did in showing what it means to be an American--when the chips are down, and you must personally pay for that privilege.

It was fitting that Admiral Lawrence not only served as the Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, but also as the Chief of Naval Personnel during his final active duty tour--because to him, the Navy is its people. He mentored countless midshipmen, junior officers, and even some senior officers.

I know of no single officer I’ve served with who earned so much affection and respect from not only his juniors, but also his contemporaries and seniors.

I speak from personal experience. My father is proud to be a 1951 Naval Academy graduate, and among that band of brothers was Admiral Lawrence.

Their association was close, and I later benefitted, along with many others, from his mentorship through the many steps of growing up as a naval officer and a naval aviator.

As a man who revered tradition, he would be touched by the fact that this ship is being commissioned on the 4th of June, the date in 1942 when other heroes--heroes among whom Bill Lawrence stands today--scored a victory that had such far-reaching effects for our nation and our Navy . . . namely at the Battle of Midway.

This humble man would be honored to be the namesake of the fine ship before us.

His name has given her crew an example of what greatness can be, and it will stick to them as long as they serve in this ship--and long after.

In his ship, we know the legacy of a great Sailor lives on.

In her sharpened steel, her crew has a bulwark from which to defend 300 million fellow Americans.

She is a product of the state of the art and science of ship design and shipbuilding.

And isn’t she a beauty?

She’s certainly a beauty a Sailor can appreciate, knowing there is plenty of “harm’s way” out there in today’s world.

So we congratulate and thank Ingalls, and the rest of the industry and Navy shipbuilding team, for bringing this--the latest ship among sixty in a class that has so effectively served our Navy so far--to life . . .

. . . taking her through her sea trials last January with a “clean sweep” . . .

. . . and putting a weapons system in this fine crew’s hands that will serve their country well, in both peace and war.

There is no finer destroyer in the United States Navy than the one we commission today.

I’ve had the great good fortune of having sister ships of USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE under my command, and I know how capable they can be when crewed by Sailors who know what they’re doing and are motivated to do it well.

So we also congratulate the professional Captain and crew who have fully embraced this ship . . . and shaped themselves into a fighting team able to meet the high standards of our United States Navy.

You fine Sailors before us now are more than just ship’s company . . . you are now the special plank-owning team of “Lawrences.”

I use that name deliberately, because you are now a load-bearing part of that family and its relationship to the Navy.

The wind you feel at your back is the push of a long tradition of the name Lawrence in serving our country--demanding the best of each of you as you pick up the torch and continue to hold it while you serve in this ship.

USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE is now not only in your hands, but she’s now in your DNA. Take care of her.

DDG 110. One hundred and ten per cent . . . for country, ship, and shipmate.

Much is expected of you. You owe it to your ship’s namesake and to yourselves to make good on those expectations.

Or, as Admiral Lawrence would say, “I know you can and will do it! Count on me to be there to help if you need it.”

And I know that Bill Lawrence will be up there watching you proudly as you set sail for your new homeport day after tomorrow . . . for the first time as stewards of a commissioned ship of the United States Navy.

CDR Williams . . . Lawrences . . . we wish upon you--and your families--the courage, skill, integrity, toughness, and magnificent humanity of the man in whose honor your ship is named.

Tradition is passed down the line, and you are now another part of it, Lawrences.

You will remember the significance of this day both in history and in the life of your ship, and you will serve this country well when your time comes–and it surely will.

Congratulations, and thank you for allowing me the honor of speaking on this very special day for your very special ship.

Let us now place this ship in commission . . . God Bless her and every Sailor who ever serves in her.
And may God continue to shower His blessings on our Nation and on the wonderful men and women who continue to serve her so well.

Thank you.