CRYSTAL CITY, Va. - The Surface Navy Association wrapped up three days of information sharing and networking when the 24th Annual National Symposium in Crystal City, Va., concluded Jan. 12.
Sailors and naval officers visited booths and attended roundtable discussions and briefs centered around the symposium's theme, "A Credible Force in Uncertain Times."
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear discussed the surface navy's involvement in the Libyan conflict and how it differs from how the Navy once operated.
"When our force first deployed to Tripoli back in 1803, collateral damage hadn't been invented yet," Locklear said. "Information came by horse, we didn't have to worry about network interoperability. At the tactical level, the main lesson of the Libyan operation and Arab Spring is that there's a certain world out there and our ships, our systems and our crews have to be ready to deal with anything. They have to be ready and they can't focus on just one mission."
He said that while the eight-month Libyan operation showed what the Navy can do, it cannot rest on its laurels now.
"We must accelerate and broaden our efforts," Locklear said. "Our primary focus is to fight, win and protect our nation. We must maintain combat credibility and forward presence and prepare as a surface force for the reality that we may have to operate in non-permissive environments in the future."
Adm. John Harvey, commander, Fleet Forces Command, talked about how the surface Navy has evolved since its inception, and will continue to maintain its potency as a global force in a challenging economic environment.
"It's not going to be easy. But 'hard' is authorized. Never forget, it is our choices, not our circumstances that will determine our future. It's up to you, so get it done," Harvey said.
Harvey noted that 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, as well as the first library aboard a warship, USS Franklin. He said in another nod to history, he said Sailors and Marines will be returning to their expeditionary roots.
"Our services were born and bred to be expeditionary. It is in our DNA," Harvey said. "With [Sailors and Marines] out of Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, the Marines will return in force to their maritime origins. We must reinvigorate and strengthen our amphibious forces.
"It is a Navy and Marine Corps future we are talking about, and we best understand it better than we do now. The Navy/Marine Corps team gives us options as a nation."
Harvey said while the attendees to the symposium were learning a lot from each other talking about the surface navy, it was also nice to see old shipmates. One of the commercial vendors displaying present and future naval technologies at one of the many booths said that as as former surface warfare officer (SWO), that was one of his favorite reasons to attend as well - and all the networking ultimately benefits the Navy.
"I love being here," said retired Capt. Steve Maynard, who served from 1979-2008 and commanded ships incorporating technology he works on today. "I see a lot of my old classmates here. We're able to meet old friends, establish relationships and reacquaint and catch up with people you maybe haven't seen in a while. You also get updated on what they're working on, what projects, and see if there's anything you can perhaps work on together."
Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work spoke on the symposium's last day about the surface navy's evolution through its five generations, from the first generation with an experimental fleet of three with inaccurate weapons, to its current generation of steel ships waging guided munitions weapons warfare.
"There's a myth that today's surface Navy is a smaller version of the Cold War force," Work said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We are using many of the same ships, but we are using them and operating them differently."
He talked about how the Navy adjusted in the wake of the battle for Okinawa in 1945, in which the Navy suffered more than 9,700 casualties.
"The Navy knew for the fleet to fight and survive in the future, it had to go to guided weapon warfare," Work said. "They knew future combat outcomes between fleets would depend on a guided-missile salvo competition."
Work said this changed the way the surface navy operated over time, leading to today's modern force. He also discussed projections for the future.
"This is a good time to be a SWO," Work added. "If you're not excited, you don't have a pulse. We're on the verge of a golden age for the surface warfare community."
"We must be ready for anything, from disaster relief to fighting our nation's wars," Locklear said. "From the Med to the Gulf, the Navy will remain, as it always has, on the front line of U.S. foreign policy. I'm confident we'll be able to meet all the demands placed on us as a force as we move into the future."
The Surface Navy Association (SNA) was incorporated in 1985 to promote greater coordination and communication among those in the military, business and academic communities who share a common interest in naval surface warfare and to support the activities of Surface Naval Forces.