SAN DIEGO – Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden accepted USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) into the fleet during a commissioning ceremony in Baltimore, Md., Oct. 15.
Zumwalt is the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced warship and was commissioned into naval service at the North Locust Point Marine Terminal and featured remarks by the Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and Rowden.
“I am thrilled to welcome USS Zumwalt into the Surface Force,” Rowden told the crowd of more than 7,000 guests attending the ceremony. “On behalf of the United States Naval Surface Force, I proudly accept ownership of the Navy’s newest ship to the fleet.”
Speaking directly to the crew who would later be called on to man the ship and bring it to life as part of the commissioning ceremony, Rowden remarked, “I present you sincere thanks from the Surface Force, the U.S. Navy and this country. Sail this ship fast, treat her well and give her everything you’ve got. And if called upon to fight, fight hard and win.”
Through Readiness, Sea Power
The commissioning ceremony was the culmination of a remarkable and rewarding week for Rowden. Logging more than 7,300 miles, his commitments included travel from San Diego to Hawaii and Hawaii to Annapolis before reaching his final destination in Baltimore. At each location Rowden engaged a broad spectrum of Sailors, including Naval Academy midshipmen, deckplate Sailors aboard destroyers, field-grade and flag officers at the Pacific Fleet Commander's Conference, as well as the Navy’s top leadership at Zumwalt’s commissioning.
Rowden kicked off his week in Hawaii visiting the crews of the guided missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oct. 11.
Following visits to these ships, he addressed Sailors during all hands calls to discuss a range of issues including mission readiness as it pertains to global events.
Specifically, on the destroyer John Paul Jones, Rowden highlighted the dynamic security environment, the various challenges and the multitude of threats the crew must be ready to face when on deployment.
“Wherever the President needs us to go, we have to be ready because the Navy is the first line of defense in keeping our nation safe,” Rowden said.
Rowden stressed to the crew the importance of the Navy as America’s “Away Team.”
“Homeland defense is essential, but it can’t exist if we don’t have an away game featuring Sailors patrolling in times of peace and of war, in the right place and not just at the right time, but all the time,” Rowden said.
John Paul Jones’ communications officer, Ensign Addison Lewis, said he appreciated the admiral’s visit to the ship and the opportunity to talk openly with the Surface Forces commander.
“It was an opportunity for us to show the admiral our readiness as a ship,” said Lewis, “but it also gave the crew better insight into the big picture. So it was nice of the admiral to talk tactics and talk warfighting.”
Ship visits like these provide Rowden an opportunity give thanks to the crews and discuss surface combatant community initiatives, as well as receive feedback directly from Sailors on the deckplates. Each visit concluded with direct question and answer interaction with the Sailors.
“We continue to be the strongest Navy on the face of the Earth because of all of you. We continue to deter that aggression out there, and in my mind, that’s what it’s all about,” Rowden said.
He spent the following two days discussing these topics at the strategic level at the Pacific Fleet Commander’s Conference before departing for the East Coast to visit the Naval Academy where he reiterated the importance of the Surface Force to the Navy and the United States.
Through Knowledge, Sea Power
Once in Annapolis, Rowden participated in a small event called “Unplugged,” one of the academy’s unique methods to meet the CNO’s goal of high velocity learning – one of the lines of effort he outlined in A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.
These academy-hosted events gather a group of 15 midshipmen, junior officers, senior officers, and civilians to facilitate discussions in a casual venue in order to promote focused dialogue and exchange of ideas.
"It was an honor to have Vice Adm. Rowden join us for the evening,” said Lt. Ashley O'Keefe, “He gave us a timely update on what midshipmen can expect when they enter the fleet and how the Navy is adapting to today's complex security environment.”
The “Unplugged” forum offers a unique opportunity for attendees to relate the topic to their operational area, and to express both praise and critical questions.
"One of the biggest take-aways from our discussion was that affecting change takes energy and time, and I appreciate Vice Adm. Rowden sharing his energy, and most importantly, his time with us to encourage innovation at the Naval Academy," Midshipman 3rd Class Erin McShane shared after the event.
Because the sessions strive to ignite excitement about thinking, reading, and discussing relevant challenges facing the Navy team, the event organizer, Midshipman 1st Class Scotty Davids, felt fortunate to have the Navy’s top Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) participate.
"It was very special to have Vice Adm. Rowden come and interact with midshipmen in a one-on-one setting,” said Davids, a mechanical engineering student. “He was able to give us his perspective on the future of Naval Surface Warfare, and then facilitate a discussion on how we could be better prepared for the future."
As the “SWO Boss,” Rowden has continually expressed his desire to give students of all ranks the experience and training necessary to make them future leaders and officers worthy of leading the best and brightest sailors.
“It’s important and always inspiring to speak to the next generation of the Navy,” said Rowden.
“My closing advice to students is always the same - dream big when you hit the fleet. You - we - must continually strive to change the calculus of our potential adversaries so as we execute future strategy they’ll be left saying, ‘We didn’t see that coming.’”
Through Boldness, Sea Power
Following his week of travel that saw the Surface Navy gain a new, leading edge destroyer, Rowden said, “Every week is great to be in the Surface Force but some weeks are even better than that! Make no mistake; NOW is a great time to be in the Surface Force!”