Surface Warriors, since our last magazine release, the success we have enjoyed through sustained operations at sea and advances in warfighting and tactics has remained steadfast. Yet, in the forefront of our minds must be the tragedies of USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain. The 17 Sailors lost, and their families, will forever weigh on our thoughts. In the wake of the collisions, we have been forced to take a deep, hard look at the core of our maritime profession – safely operating our ships at sea.
I recently visited our Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in the western Pacific, spending more than 65 hours on the decks of 17 ships between Yokosuka, Sasebo, and Singapore. On each ship, I conducted an all-hands call, and met with the command triads, wardrooms and Chiefs Mess. It is undeniable, all of these Sailors work relentlessly every day to ensure our surface combatants stand ready to answer our nations call – and I want to thank each and every Sailor we have doing the same around the Surface Force.
I’ve also disseminated multiple Warfighting Serials and guidance directed at giving course correction to improve the readiness of the Surface Force – the proper time to train our Sailors and the necessary materials and time to maintain and man of our ships. As I think about what is needed to regain our Plan of Intended Movement (PIM), we must rely heavily on our Sound Shipboard Operating Procedures (SSOP) and their supporting processes:
It isn’t enough to just read these aloud, or treat them as a “check in the box". These fundamentals must permeate the Surface Navy through enculturation -- from the pilot house down to every watchstander in the main spaces. Until a Fireman is teaching a Fireman and a Seaman is teaching a Seaman, we need to work vigorously to ensure SSOPs are ingrained in our culture. We must demand that Sailors live these principles from their very first qualification through their most advanced role on each team (watchstanding, damage control, etc.). A culture constructed on these principles will allow us to produce and move forward with more confident and more competent Sailors. It’ll push us to be brilliant in the basics, and allow us to concentrate maximum effort on the high-end fight and warfighting readiness.