Well, good evening, and thank you for that kind, but long, introduction. Good morning. On behalf of all of us on the dais, I welcome Congressman Scott, Gen. Mercier, Adm. Nielson, Adm. Flanagan, Adm. Keating, Mayor Alexander, Mayor Friam, and our many distinguished guess and elected officials; active and retired flag officers, senior executives, government civilians, family, friends, shipmates – welcome back to the Norfolk waterfront!
I’m also delighted to see many important allies in attendance this morning as well – you honor us with your presence here today – and a special welcome to all of our veterans here in attendance. All of us owe all of you a debt of gratitude – whether you served for four years or 34 years – your dedication and devotion to our Navy and nation is recognized here today. And when we look back at the architects of the rock-solid foundation of excellence upon which we stand, it is our veterans who deserve this worthy recognition and we’re honored to have you in attendance today.
Now, certainly, we couldn’t have asked for a better morning for today’s ceremony – and I’m not certain who ordered up the weather, but well done – and I think we should give credit to the captain and crew of this magnificent warship. So, how about a round of applause!
As we gather here today to formally establish, or re-establish, the 2nd Fleet here in Norfolk, I think it is worth noting what has driven us to this event today. What was the catalyst? And, to me, it is clear our nation and Navy is being challenged at sea once again. Our sea control, and our power projection – two vital elements of our national security – are being challenged, by resurgent powers (namely Russia and China); both seeking to supplant the United States as the partner of choice among free and prosperous nations.
And we as a Navy, as a nation, have not had to confront such peer competitors since the Cold War ended nearly three decades ago. Simply put, the days of competition at sea and challenges to our maritime superiority have returned.
As our former 2nd Fleet commanders here with us today (Admirals Flanagan, Williams, Chanik and Holloway) – all veterans of the Cold War – will certainly tell you, near-peer high-end competition demands much of us. At the top of that list is an elite, lethal force and culture of professionals (surface, undersea, air, intelligence, information warfare, logistics, and special operators) all operating with a sharp and focused mindset, centered on excellence and lethality. It demands steadfast leadership and dedication to the mission of credible deterrence and, when required, prompt and sustained combat operations and victory at sea. And speaking of leadership, our 2nd Fleet will be led by a proven combat aviator and esteemed naval officer – Vice Adm. Woody Lewis.
You know, in the Navy, we put a premium on something called local knowledge – knowledge of the local tides and currents, surface, subsurface and air traffic, local trends, history and relationships. Woody Lewis represents that local knowledge. He is certainly no stranger to the Norfolk waterfront, as he executed multiple tours in the Hampton Roads Area. If I’m counting correctly, this makes seven tours here in Norfolk – clearly the right man at the right time.
Vice Adm. Lewis’ experience with the challenges of the Atlantic, coupled with his keen knowledge of our AOR [area of responsibility] – and, indeed the entire globe, is the right answer at the right time for commanding the Second Fleet.
Woody, Christine and I welcome you and Mary back to the Norfolk wardroom. Your challenges will be many; however, given your dedication and proven leadership, I know that you are up to the task. Indeed, it’s great to have you alongside and I look forward to our future endeavors together.
Now, ladies and gentleman, it’s my very distinct pleasure and great honor to welcome another tremendous warfighter and leader, as our presiding officer and guest speaker today – our boss and leader – of the United States Navy.
Please join me in welcoming our 31st Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson.
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