CRYSTAL CITY, Va. - Naval leaders, government officials and members of private industry gathered to discuss the surface navy's future at the 24th Annual Surface Navy Association Symposium in Crystal City, Va., Jan. 10.
"My top priorities are the same as those who came before me: to remain ready to meet our current challenges today," said Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, the symposium's keynote speaker.
"We also need to build a relevant and capable future fleet, and we need to do all we can to take care of our Sailors, their families as well as our civilians," he continued.
Greenert pointed to the recent rescue of 13 Iranian fisherman held captive by pirates in the North Arabian Sea as an example of the motivated, relevant, and diverse pool of talent that makes up today's surface force. He said the actions of crewmembers involved illustrate the symposium's theme "Surface Navy: A Credible Force in Uncertain Times."
Vice Adm. Richard A. Hunt, commander, Naval Surface Forces, agreed.
"Uncertainty surrounds everything we do today," said Hunt. "That is the biggest challenge of all, and that's the essence of what we must deal with as we train and prepare our surface force."
Surface Navy Association president retired Vice Adm. Ronald Route then showed a video displaying the diverse mission and capabilities of the surface navy and its Marine Corps and Coast Guard partners, including operations in Libya and humanitarian assistance in Japan.
"Providing credible combat power with properly manned and equipped personnel ready to prevail - you just saw some of that. And that's where our focus needs to be," said Hunt. "The surface navy brings the ability to have contact with other nations and people and shape the situation, perhaps minimizing or avoiding conflict when we can. We are the only community in the Navy who can do that."
Hunt said the operational environment and the Navy's priorities are changing. He said one goal of the symposium was to share information about the future of the Navy's technology and people. Service members at all levels did so at roundtable luncheons for enlisted Sailors, junior officers and Midshipmen.
Private companies like Maersk, Lockheed Martin and Boeing also had booths showing off present and future technologies, like the electromagnetic railgun, littoral combat ship (LCS) and green energy.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick D. West said the SNA is a great way to bring technology and people together.
"It's exciting to be a Sailor in today's Navy," said West. "When you talk about things like LCS, high speed vessels, our new amphibious vessels...it's pretty special."
West added, though, that while new technology helps Sailors meet new challenges every day, the equipment is useless on its own.
"At the end of our day, it's our Sailors who make the Navy go 'Zoom!'" West said. "As I speak right now, 50,000 of our Sailors are underway or deployed. The surface force is a huge part of that. They're worldwide, they're ready and they're out there making a huge difference for us.
"That's how we operate. From the beginning of the Navy to now, we've been out there forward deployed doing the j-o-b and we're doing it well."
Other first-day speakers included Marine Maj. Gen. Timothy C. Hanifen, Expeditionary Warfare Division director, Rear Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, Surface Warfare Division director and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt. The symposium continues through Jan. 12.
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.