MAYPORT, Fla. - Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates held an all hands call with Sailors stationed on board the littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) during a visit May 6.
The small community of 50 Sailors gathered around Gates as he answered questions and addressed their concerns about the ship and its future in the Navy.
"June 30th marks the end of my four and a half year tenure as Secretary of the Defense and will put me just a couple of months shy of 45 years since I first joined the government." said Gates who indicated he has always wanted to visit a littoral combat ship prior to leaving government service.
Gates spoke to the crew about the mission capabilities of USS Independence and the desire to ultimately see the Navy purchase about 55 more of the ships.
"One of the reasons I support these ships is because I think they are exactly the kind of versatile platform that we need," said Gates. "They can operate in blue water or green water and they can be available for a variety of missions."
During his visit to the ship, Gates also administered the oath of enlistment to Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Nathan Ellsworth.
"I think being reenlisted by the SECDEF is a huge honor," said Ellsworth. "He is the sixth in succession to the president and I really agree with a lot of his views as far as the Navy is concerned so this is a big deal for me."
Gates continued to answer questions but made a point to thank the Sailors for their service.
"My main purpose here is to just come and thank you for your service, your sacrifice and to ask each of you to thank your families for me. Without their support, your service would be a lot harder if not impossible," said Gates. "I can tell you that of all the things that I do, serving and leading you all and other men and women of the armed services has been the greatest honor of my life."
Sailors aboard Independence said it was great to hear from a senior leader like Gates and it left them feeling positive about the future of the Navy.