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.