Admiral Winnefeld remarks at the Navy Ball
Oct. 1, 2010 —
ADMIRAL WINNEFELD: Good evening, everyone. __________ it’s nice to see you again, nice to be here. Many, many, distinguished guests are here tonight. I see many retired flag officers and active flag and general officers, too many for me to mention and not put you to sleep, and I would also like to extend a special welcome to our Wounded Warriors. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, please give them applause. (APPLAUSE)
I would note that Specialist Kennedy was not only a wounded Army warrior, he was wounded as a Navy corpsman in a previous tour. (APPLAUSE)
And Toons, thank you for that kind introduction. It’s such a pleasure to be here tonight, aboard the USS Pikes Peak sailing with great Shipmates and friends to celebrate the 235th birthday of America’s Navy. It is also great to be out of the Pentagon, and back in command, stationed here on the Front Range, in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, in the very town where “America the Beautiful,” was written, and indeed, in full view of the purple mountains majesty, it’s really an amazing experience. Mary and I love living here in Colorado Springs and I feel very privileged to command NORAD and USNORTHCOM, leading a cadre of very talented and committed Americans and Canadians in defense of our homelands. But all of these bells and whistles tonight make me long for the smell of cool salt air, the feel of a nice long swell out there in the open ocean, and the full-body experience of a catapult shot. There’s nothing like being at sea, so it’s good to re-enact a little bit of that here tonight. Fortunately, we didn’t take it too far and I won’t be tasting JP-5 on my toothbrush tonight. (LAUGHTER)
I’d like to echo the many thanks for all those people who have helped make our evening such a success thus far. To our co-hosts, the Rocky Mountain Navy League, you’re incredible partners and it’s such a pleasure to celebrate our birthday with you tonight. Our emcee, Captain Greg “Toons” Looney, he’s done a great job keeping the festivities going and we look forward to more. To our Navy Ball Committee who put together this fabulous evening led by Mr. Dick Cooper, Mr. Bill Lockwook, Mr. Dick Spearel of the Navy League, and to Lieutenant Command Mike McCormack, Lieutenant Commander Jeff Young, Lieutenant Commander Bill Barich, Chief Lalumandier, and Petty Officers Roberts, Chiadez and Giddens.
Bravo Zulu folks..This would not have come together without your hard work. And to all of our table sponsors, thank you so much for being here and for helping support our Sailors and for helping us have an enjoyable evening. We could not possibly support such a beautiful affair, must less have a great Navy, without your help. To our band Gentle Rain, you’ve been amazing performers so far. You didn’t blow us out during dinner so we could talk. We look forward to dancing and rocking with you as soon as I stop talking. To our sideboys, if you’re still here, and our bell ringer, bosun and OOD, good job getting us underway safely and more importantly in style. And our flag detail…I’m not sure if our wonderful sea cadets are still here but if you are, you guys and gals look really sharp and you carry our colors with such pride. You’re inspiring. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
I’d also like to add my personal welcome to some very special groups who set sail with us this evening. For starters, several of my father’s classmates and their lovely spouses from the Naval Academy Class of 1951. It’s great to have you here in Colorado. So glad you could join us.
Your Color Company Commander and your Color Girl express their best wishes and their regrets that they could not be with you tonight, but they’re with you in spirit. And the USS Constellation Reunion Group, you gents have quite a history…it’s an honor to have you with us this evening, and you can count me as one of your own. More on that later. (applause)
The Naval Academy classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013, Boy, does that saying make me feel old, just saying that. It’s great to see our Navy’s future leaders, whether you’re cheerleaders or not. (LAUGHTER) Make sure you get with some other Naval Academy alumni tonight. You’re sure to hear some great stories that have grown much more interesting over time.
Being here tonight offers me the opportunity to reflect a little bit on the past, present, and future of our Navy. As you’ve heard earlier tonight, we celebrate October 13, 1775, as the official birth date of our America’s Navy, for that was the day on which the Continental Congress, as you heard, authorized the construction of two ships. It wasn’t long after the Revolution, however, that the Navy was laid up and American merchant vessels began to fall prey to Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. Having lost the protection of the British Crown, our American nation had to fend for itself, and now it lacked the means to do so. To counter this, and acting on the authority provided in the Constitution, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, ordering the construction and manning of six frigates. This was a major shift for our young nation. Many of our leaders felt that a Navy would be far too expensive to raise and maintain, too imperialistic and unnecessarily provoke the European powers. In the end however we found as a nation that it was necessary to protect American commercial interests at sea. The first three of those ships to be built were the USS Constitution, USS United States and, of course, the USS Constellation. And sure enough, on February 19, 1799, Commodore Thomas Truxton led the newly commissioned frigate USS Constellation in hot pursuit of the French frigate raider L’Insurgent. As they met in battle, the Americans were outmanned and outgunned, but they outmatched the French in technology, tactics, and resolve. On the technical side, Connie was a unique design by Joshua Humphries, with exceptional speed and maneuverability and carried very heavy guns. Humphries also used a very unique rib scheme and extremely heavy Southern Live Oak planking, which gave the hulls of these ships greater strength than the more lightly-built frigates of the day and that of course was how USS Constitution got her name, Old Ironsides. On the tactical side, U.S. Sailors used the British tactic of slugging it out with their opponents, compared to the French who preferred to shoot out their enemy’s rigging elegantly and then board with superior numbers. Well, the American approach carried the day, that day, and Constellation rigging was only slightly damaged by L’Insurgent’s broadside and then she easily outmaneuvered the French ship and then raked her with devastating broadsides down the lengths of her deck. It wasn’t long before L’Insurgente realized she could not continue, and quickly struck her colors to Constellation. And to this day, we still benefit in the United States Navy from superior technology, thanks to our industry partners, superior tactics, thanks to our wonderful sailors, and superior resolve, thanks to the history and traditions of this great nation. Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to sail on two U.S. Navy vessels that carried the name of the two vessels that were in that fight. I sailed as a new commissioned Ensign and Naval Academy sailing coach in open ocean racing on the sailboat, Insurgent, a great program for the U.S. Naval Academy that has helped many like me better understand how wind and sea and people can work together. And my very first deployment as a young Naval aviator was aboard the USS Constellation CV 64 in 1981, with Fighter Squadron 24. She was under the command of Bud Edney, if any of you know Bud, when I first arrived. Now a lot of water has passed under the keel between Humphries and Truxton, and my humble service for the last 32 years, but their ingenuity and daring leadership echo throughout our Navy’s history, in different times, in different battles. Oliver Hazard Perry’s first victory over the British fleet, at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1812. The first iron clad battle between Monitor and Merrimac and Farragut’s “damning the torpedoes” at Mobile Bay during our Civil War, the many Naval battles in World War II, including the first ever carrier on carrier battle at Coral Sea, the decisive defeat delivered to the Japanese at Midway, the destroyer on destroyer battle at Vella Gulf, the Battle of Cape St. George, which marked the end of the Tokyo Express, the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was the largest carrier battle ever. And then, the Battle of Inchon an awe-inspiring amphibious assault, successful against all odds, which was just re-enacted a few weeks ago to mark its 60th anniversary. And all along, on the front lines during the Cold War. There are a host of other examples, each unique, yet each reflecting the same pride and professionalism of your Navy. Some of that pride was carried and still is by the members of the fabulous Class of ’51, of the Naval Academy, and it’s with a sense of obligation and personal pride that I recognize them tonight. They’re in Colorado Springs for what they call a “tween” reunion, a prep for their 60th next year. The motto of the class of ’51 is “Second to None.” Their service has lived up to that motto. They entered the Navy just as the Cold War was beginning and many served until it was almost over. Its members include 32 flag and general officers, four Navy Cross winners, one Army Distinguished Service Cross winner and one NASA Distinguished Service Medal Winner. Most of you will recognize the name of VADM Bill Lawrence, a name now carried by one our newest Arleigh Burke destroyers. Some in that class served as my “uncles” in my earlier years and later as my mentors on active duty. Among their number are Bill Lawrence, Kin McKee, and Herb Zoehrer. The country and I owe them all a debt of gratitude for the example they set. The best way we can pay tribute to these men is through the actions, skill and professionalism of today’s Sailors. Today, our Navy is conducting operations all over the globe – from contingency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, to operations in the East China Sea, to counter-narcotics missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific…to training off the Virginia Capes and California.
We are a Navy of 330,000 professionals…Sailors who are cut of the same cloth as our forefathers. Our operating environment is global and our mission is vital…70% of the earth is covered in water; 80% of the planet’s population lives in coastal areas; and, 90% of global commerce goes over the sea.
We comprise a force of 288 warships, more than half of which are underway tonight as we celebrate the Navy’s birthday, away from their homeports, away from their families…With 111 of those on deployment. That is nearly 40% of our force deployed… keeping us secure as we enjoy our evening together.
We maintain maritime supremacy with Carrier Strike Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, ballistic missile and attack submarines, each possessing striking power unimaginable by our founders, who would be truly amazed with what we can do, but not amazed by who we are and how we think.
The skill of our Navy and Marine Corps team was on display a few weeks ago off the East African coast, when a Marine boarding team from USS Dubuque, supported by USS Princeton and her Seahawk helicopters, was inserted onto the deck of the motor vessel Magellan Star to wrest control of that ship back from Somali pirates. Executed with precision and skill, the operation was conducted without injury or casualty – a testament to the professionalism of the CTF-51’s Maritime Raiding Force. The action ensured continued freedom of our seas and security for American maritime commerce – just as our Navy has done for 235 years.
While America’s Navy projects power from the sea, it is also there in time of humanitarian need… as represented by relief efforts in Pakistan in the wake of recent catastrophic flooding that is ongoing as I speak. As part of Continuing Promise 2010 and Operation Handclasp, USS Iwo Jima recently anchored off Puerto Santos, Guatemala to deliver 100s of thousands of dollars worth of supplies as a gesture of goodwill and friendship to our Central American neighbor . . . this only 6 months after we deployed USS CARL VINSON and USNS COMFORT and many other ships, aircraft, and Sailors, and Marines to provide life-sustaining support to an earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
As Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM I also benefit from the Navy’s diversity of capabilities. From providing the life-saving capability resident within an Amphibious Ready Group in the aftermath of a hurricane along the Gulf Coast…to providing oil skimmers and aerial surveillance platforms in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill…From providing ships and aircraft to secure an environment for the Vancouver Winter Olympics…to intercepting drug and human-smuggling vessels that threaten our society…to providing a shield against the ballistic missile threat from rogue nations.
Our Navy, your Navy, America’s Navy is on the front line, always ready to provide for our security and help maintain our way of life. We truly are, as the recruiting ad says, a global force for good.
And we’re getting better. We’re witness to the birth of many cutting-edge technological advancements including advanced aircraft designs such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, E/A-18G Growler, MH-60 Romeo multi-mission helicopter, and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. And revolutionary ship designs such as CVN78 class carriers, Virginia class submarines, and of course the Littoral Combat Ships. These systems are pushing design envelopes and delivering eye-watering capability to our fleet. Indeed, they are changing the very nature of how we will conduct warfare in the future.
But our naval might is about much more than cutting-edge technology. It’s about the Sailors who make up our force. It is about their ingenuity, their can-do attitude and fortitude in the face of hardship. It’s about the cut of their jib, and their ability to find a way to get the job done…no matter the circumstances. The quality of today’s Sailors is truly eye-watering; much better than when I came in the Navy. They’re truly fantastic men and women. Like we Sailors from yesteryear, these young Sailors are different from those who are tied to the land. My father pointed this out in a Naval Institute prize essay 15 years ago. He said we are a unique combination of tradition and brashness . . . and professionalism soaked in salt water.
We find that we Sailors cannot tolerate bureaucracy, probably because we spent most of our history isolated from it by hundreds or thousands of miles. We are shaped by the unforgiving environment within which we must continually operate. The sea – with all its wondrous beauty – must and always will be deadly. And operating from ships far from the safety of shore is even more dangerous than the uninitiated can imagine. Yet it is this very environment that hardens the steel of newly-forged Sailors. The sea is unforgiving, and as a result Sailors quickly earn a healthy respect for it – it ingrains into them the principles of self-reliance, a special respect a ship’s captain, and the notion of absolute accountability. A Sailor soon learns that he or she must rely on himself or his or her shipmates. He is interwoven into the very fabric of his ship – he or she eats, sleeps, breathes within the skin of the ship. And Sailors more quickly than any other profession discover those among them who are weak. A Sailor fights and dies with his or her ship, and has a special sympathy for the enemy Sailor whose ship is ablaze and sinking. From seaman recruits to Admirals – each Shipmate equally shares the risk of a sea battle or a raging storm – there is no rear echelon…there is no retreat from the sea. It is this reality that fosters a special relationship among Shipmates – forming bonds, as we see tonight, that last a lifetime.
A reunion among Shipmates ranks right up there on the emotional meter right behind a marriage or the birth of a child…just ask the men who join us tonight for their own reunion – or their spouses. A Sailor’s career is not simply a list of duty stations and job titles. We remember each ship, submarine or squadron in which we served and our careers, indeed our adult lives, are defined by a succession of “cruises” – sometimes to exotic locations – other times to not-so-glamorous garden-spots in the dangerous corners of our globe. Perhaps more than our brethren from other services, we even share a special bond with our (foreign) Navy counterparts because they understand us…they are part of the shared heritage of life at sea.
We are often mocked for such an embrace of tradition – some say we cling to our past. But for we Sailors, our traditions become a chart to depend upon – our guide through the shoal water of new challenges and difficult situations. Our traditions serve as an anchor for us well into the future - as we face new threats, new challenges, and new opportunities.
And remember to all of us Sailors the best part of being a Sailor is when you come home to your family.
So tonight we celebrate one of those traditions, and that is our Navy’s birthday. We remember those who came before, we mourn those we lost along the way, we celebrate their successes and we applaud the new generation of Sailors among us. You can all be proud of the profession you chose…it is a calling to the sea that is steeped in history…with an amazing future ahead of it. I am proud to wear this uniform and to have served alongside you in my 32 year slice of the Navy’s history. So Happy Birthday Shipmates! Please enjoy the evening. I hope to see you at the game tomorrow.
God bless the Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines who have served in the past and are deployed tonight, serving on the front lines in the defense of freedom. God bless our United States Navy, and God bless Canada and America.
Go NAVY… beat Air Force! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)