Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
 
Commander's Corner

As I write this, the holiday season is upon us and a new year is just over the horizon. This is my favorite time of year; things slow down just a bit and we take time to reflect on all of our blessings. My hope is that you were able to enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones. For those who were deployed, and still may be, please know the sacrifices you and your families make are deeply appreciated by our great Nation.

Another reason I love this time of year is that the annual Surface Warfare gathering – the Surface Navy Association Symposium (SNA) – rapidly approaches. Every January, over the course of a few days, friendships are renewed, professional relationships are reinforced, and an informative baselining of the current state and future direction of the community is shared. If you have not had a chance to attend, I highly recommend you mark it as a “must do” item at some point in your career.

I have attended SNA many times throughout my career, with this year being my seventh in a community-wide leadership role. It also marks my last as SWO BOSS and my final in uniform. In early February, I will be relieved as Commander, U.S. Naval Surface Forces in a change of command ceremony and will officially retire soon after in the spring. This assignment was a dream of mine for a long time, and I’m here to tell you that the reality of the position far surpasses the dream.

 Yet, as every fleet Sailor knows, there were terrible days in 2017. We tragically lost 17 shipmates in separate collisions involving USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56). We hold those fallen Sailors and their loved ones close in our hearts – they serve as the impetus for us to be better.

The Comprehensive Review (CR) of recent Surface Force Incidents put forward an honest and objective assessment of where our community stands, and where improvements can be made in fundamentals, teamwork, operational safety, assessments, and culture. We’ve already implemented a good number of the recommendations from the CR and we will continue to pursue all of the remaining recommendations. In all efforts, we ensure these initiatives put sharp focus on: building better mariners, enhancing our ability to safely operate at sea, and ultimately, strengthening our warfighting capability. 

 

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Our warfighting capability is based on being more offensive, establishing sea control at our choosing, and affecting the calculus of our potential adversaries. This is critical to our national security. Potential adversaries will have to dedicate their resources to account for every one of our ships – be it a cruiser, amphib or LCS. We need to maintain certified, effective, and lethal ships. To this end, our 2017 advancements – platforms, sensors, weapons, and networks design – were significant in making our ships harder to find, harder to kill, and more lethal. The advances include missiles that allow enemy ships to be killed at greater range (e.g. USS John P. Jones SM-6 testing), offensive enhancements to existing ships (e.g. USS Coronado firing a Harpoon Over-the-Horizon Missile), networking approaches to integrating the USMC F-35B with our AEGIS fleet, and attacking land-based targets from amphibious ships at sea (e.g. USS Anchorage utilizing High Mobility Artillery Rocket System). I would be remiss if I didn’t include the great work happening at the Surface Mine and Warfighting Development Center. These professionals continue to graduate Warfare Tactics Instructors, who sharpen the tactical proficiency of every surface combatant set to deploy. We’re matching our growing talent with the right tools and training to develop, refine, and teach the tactics required to win at sea.

I’ve spent the past three and a half years waking up each morning with one main thought, “How can the SURFOR team make things better for the ‘center of the universe’ – the crews of the ships who go in harm’s way?” It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve and lead this amazing community. I’ve traveled the world to talk with our Sailors and one theme comes through time and time again – Surface Warriors are extremely proud of what they do.

 As I reflect back over my long career, I remember meeting Vice Adm. Hank Mustin aboard USS Miller during my 1st Class cruise as a Naval Academy Midshipman. His sentiment in the moment would have a profound effect on me throughout my career. “The United States Navy exists to control the sea,” were his simple words to the wardroom that day. Almost 30 years later, as I took command of Naval Surface Forces in August 2014, his words could not have resonated more. I’ve used this statement of fact to help shape my leadership and guidance to the world’s preeminent Surface Fleet. Like those who have sailed our warships before us and will after me, we must remain offensive-minded and focused on our core mission of controlling the sea.

I am and will always be extremely proud to be a Surface Warfare Officer. I offer a sincere Thank You to all of you for making this tour so special - thank you for your hard work and dedication each and every day. I proudly salute the past, present and future Sailors taking in all lines, heading to sea, and standing ready to answer the call of our Nation. It has been an honor…Godspeed! Surface Warfare Magazine

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