ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, Atlantic Ocean - Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt visited the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Feb. 4 to talk with Sailors, Marines and coalition forces during Exercise Bold Alligator 2012.
Hunt arrived via CH-46 as part of a tour of units participating in Bold Alligator, the largest amphibious exercise in a decade.
While aboard, Hunt addressed the crew to laud their efforts to make Bold Alligator the premier amphibious exercise in the world.
"I couldn't be happier to be a part of, at least the observing team for, Bold Alligator," Hunt said during an all-hands call in the hangar bay. "This is something that is absolutely essential to the future of the Navy and Marine Corps team. It's the right thing to do."
The purpose behind the exercise, which combines elements from the Navy, Marine Corps and coalition partners, is to revitalize the skill-sets that comprise amphibious operations and re-enforce the maritime services' sea basing initiative. Hunt expounded on the importance of both roles to national security.
"What we do over the next ten years will determine how safe the United States of America is," he said.
Hunt added that amphibious capabilities go far beyond the ability to engage in combat from the littorals, they also enable the U.S. to respond globally to disasters and provide humanitarian aide to coastal regions. He cited the recent combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya while contrasting those missions with a year of natural disasters.
"The impact, with no notice, of being able to drop bombs on target, to do direct support missions off amphibious ships, to do CSAR (combat search and rescue) missions, and to do it absolutely flawlessly is incredibly impressive," he said. "And to do it all at almost the same time as earthquakes, tsunamis and a nuclear disaster in Japan... Who shows up for that? The United States Navy."
The successful completion of those challenges were not lost on Hunt, or the surface warfare community, as they mulled whether there were shortcomings in today's Navy at the recent Surface Navy Week.
"The answer to that was no," he said. "We have been able to achieve every single challenge the Nation and the President have asked us to do, and we will continue to do that."
Hunt spent the day touring the ship's spaces, including medical facilities, main engineering, and speaking one-on-one to Sailors up and down the chain of command about Exercise Bold Alligator.
Bold Alligator focuses on today's fight with today's forces, while showcasing the advantages of seabasing. The exercise takes place Jan. 30-Feb. 12 afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina.