VASCO NUNEZ DE BALBOA, Panama - While pier side in Vasco Núñez de Balboa (VNB), Panama, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61) welcomed aboard Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, Jan. 15.
The visit occurred during Mabus' recent trip to Central and South America. He was getting a firsthand look U.S. and partner nation operations and meeting key leadership of partner nations vital to U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) strategic objectives. Meeting with the Commanding Officer of USS Ingraham, Cmdr. Kristin L. Stengel, he discussed the Navy's impact on C-TOC operations and the ability to combat a dynamic and persistent threat. Topics included the ever-changing tactics of traffickers as well as the potential impact of the new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). LCS is the planned replacement for the Oliver Hazard Perry-class of frigates, scheduled for decommissioning in the next decade.
Mabus toured one of the secure compartments on board where the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) keeps under lock and key any seized cocaine. He then proceeded to the flight deck for an all hands call, where he pinned a newly qualified surface warfare Officer and four enlisted surface warfare specialists. He presented five additional awards and administered the "Oath of Enlistment" to one reenlisting Sailor.
Mabus also spoke to the crew about the future of the Navy and praise the crew for the sacrifices they have endured to provide this critical service to the nation.
"You are a part of the less than one percent of the country that has volunteered to protect the other ninety-nine percent," said Mabus.
Mabus shook hands and posed for pictures with Ingraham Sailors before departing the ship. With a final note, he reflected on the ability of the Navy to provide the world the right support, for any given mission, at any given time.
"This is the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen," said Mabus.
Homeported out of Everett, Wash., Ingraham's main mission during its five-month deployment is to combat transnational organized crime (C-TOC) by intercepting and seizing narcotics that are en route U.S. soil.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.