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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Adm. Christopher W. Grady

Norfolk, Virginia

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

05 March 2021 Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, as delivered remarks as presiding officer and guest speaker for commander, Surface Force Atlantic change of command ceremony, held aboard USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), Norfolk Naval Station, March 5, 2021.

Rear Adm. Brad Cooper salutes Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, during the Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT) change of command ceremony aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19).
SLIDESHOW | 2 images | SURFLANT Change of Command Ceremony Rear Adm. Brad Cooper salutes Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, during the Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT) change of command ceremony aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19). During the ceremony, Rear. Adm. Brendan McLane relieved Cooper as commander of SURFLANT. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Milham/Released)
Well, good morning! Thank you for joining me here on the waterfront aboard the awesome USS Mesa Verde for a very special event. We are gathered here today to celebrate the time-honored tradition of the change of command – where responsibility, authority, and accountability passes seamlessly from one highly capable commander to the next.
Thank you, Brad, for inviting me to speak and for that kind introduction. I am honored to take part in recognizing the Surface Force’s accomplishments under your leadership and I look forward to your continued success. To the officers and crew – the ship looks great! Captain Duff, you and your team have done an outstanding job throughout your extended maintenance period. It is no easy feat to do what you have done.

The hard work and dedication of this stellar crew is on display here today, and I believe I can speak for everyone in saying how proud we are of you all. And as you approach the completion of maintenance phase, I know your team will attack the basic phase with that very same tenacity and professionalism. I look forward to your crews’ continued success on the path towards deployment. And to the staff at SURFLANT, thank you for putting together a fitting ceremony, despite the challenges this pandemic presents, so that we may mark this occasion in the distinguished manner it deserves.
Navy regulations, underpinned by centuries of naval customs and traditions, directs this ceremony be formally conducted in the presence of as many of the command’s personnel as can be assembled. But today, as we have done time again this past year, rather than calling all hands to muster to witness this change of command, we’ve gathered only a few key players here in person to bear witness to the formal change of command.
Included in that small group of key players are just a few of our most talented Sailors, each recognized as our Sailors of the Quarter for SURFLANT. Our Blue Jacket of the 1st Quarter Hospitalman Jerriod Rivers, Junior Sailor of the 1st Quarter Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Nicole Gatbonton, Junior Sailor of the 2nd Quarter Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Kendra France, and Sailor of the 1st Quarter Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeremy Richardson. I have long held firm the belief that our Sailors are the center of the universe. Our legacy is defined, really, by a long list of great accomplishments of Sailors throughout our proud history. And, we should never lose sight of the fact that it is indeed these sailors who give us our greatest competitive advantage. I want to personally thank each of you for your hard work and dedication to our surface team. It’s great to have each of you here.
Now, I would like to recognize Brad and Brendan’s families, friends, and mentors here with us today, some with us in person and others in spirit. I am sure all would agree, our families are such an important component of naval service. By providing a stable foundation at home, our families provide us the ability to focus on the Navy’s mission. And, so, at every opportunity, I believe it is important to express our gratitude for what you do each and every day in support of us as Sailors, the Navy, and the nation.
From the Brendan Mclane’s family, his parents Jean and Sue – and of course Brendan and Colleen’s daughter Sara – all of whom could not be here today, but are here with us in our thoughts. Also, here in spirit, Brendan’s grandfather Colonel John Earle, who is both his inspiration and mentor to you and now to me, who knew personally two American heroes that are the namesake of two of the ships he’s served upon, Freddy Moosbrugger and Lewis Puller. Although Colonel Earle passed away in 2006, I know that he is here with us in spirit, both proud of your accomplishments and standing by your side on the flag bridge. And most importantly, I’d like to welcome Brendan’s wife and better half, Colleen. Always strong, steady, and resilient. Always an advocate for our Sailors and families, ensuring they have the resources they need.
Thank you for your steadfast support of Brendan. As I said back in December, Christine and I are excited to have you back in Norfolk and are looking forward to your continued leadership supporting the SURFLANT families.
For Brad and the Cooper family, I would like to recognize some of your mentors, who are mentors of mine as well. Like Vice Admiral Hank Griffin and Vice Admiral Charlie Martoglio, who have been both strong role models and constant examples of “what right looks like,” helping guide him on the path of his career from his first tours aboard USS Thomas S. Gates and Fitzgerald.
Brad’s mother, Lee, and also their children, Bradford and Katie, we surely miss their presence here today. Thank you for all the support you have provided to our navy family over the years, it certainly does not go unnoticed. And I would also like to acknowledge Brad’s father, Brad, who passed away very recently. He was not only a devout father, but an outstanding role model, and an army veteran. Christine and I want you to know that your family continues to be in our thoughts and prayers. I know that he is with us here today, extremely proud of you, your countless accomplishments, and your wonderful family.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we are honored to have with us Brad’s wife, and high school sweetheart, Susan. The core strength of the family – she has managed to keep things together through numerous moves around the world in support of the fleet. A speech-language pathologist by trade, Susan assumed an active role in the Surface Officers Spouses’ Association, developing the first ever spouse leadership training for senior officer and enlisted spouses. Susan, I can’t possibly thank you enough for your service and sacrifice as a navy spouse. I often say that family readiness directly contributes to operational readiness – that a stronger family means a stronger fleet – and your support of Brad is precisely what I mean when I say this. How about a round of applause for Susan, Colleen, and all of our Navy families?
Now, as everyone here well knows, the Navy’s mission is truly unremitting, especially during this challenging time, and the American people will continue to rely on us to defend them from harm and protect our national interests around the world. The responsibilities of a type commander are absolutely essential and foundational to our wider mission of providing combat ready ships and battle-minded crews that are truly resolute, ready, and lethal on arrival.
Brad, as your flag is brought down at SURFLANT, you should be immensely proud of what you did here! First and foremost, you adeptly managed the combat readiness of 27,000 personnel, 77 warships, and 31 support units of the Atlantic Fleet to unparalleled levels of proficiency. You did this through clear, consistent, and measurable objectives, ensuring your entire team championed that transition from culture of compliance to a culture of excellence. Throughout this past year you successfully implemented a myriad of programs across the Atlantic Fleet that I believe have reinforced ownership, accountability, self-sufficiency, and toughness, both at sea and on the home-front. All essential components that prepare our Navy for success in the high-end fight.
Second, I applaud your tireless commitment to bringing additional mental health resources to the fleet. These chaplains, behavioral health technicians, and deployed resiliency counselors are critical support agents that help ensure our Sailors can effectively navigate personal and professional obstacles all the while being ready to weigh anchor at a moment’s notice. Moreover, your level focus on education, safety, and your introduction of new, highly beneficial, initiatives to drive down destructive behaviors on the deck-plates and at home, accelerated the surfaces fleets’ movement towards a culture of excellence.
Next, in direct support of homeland defense, in this emerging idea of persistent proximate threat your vision has launched task group greyhound, an innovative approach to defending our homeland in this return to great power competition. As a TYCOM you know all too well today’s readiness challenges - and through your direct efforts, you revolutionized the surface force generation model, increasing the number of ships ready for tasking.
You accomplished this by a rigorous analysis and a laser focus on repair production risks, the employment of the afloat tactical training accelerated certification program, and directives like “ATG rodeo,” which greatly increased the throughput of ships in maintenance phase by creating “group sail” events, both certifying ships at a higher rate, and keeping crews safe within their COVID bubble. These efficiencies coupled with continuous improvements to the surface force training and readiness manual, significantly improved the on-time delivery of ships, and were critical steps forward in preparing our surface fleet to compete and win regardless the mission.
As Fleet Forces Commander, I witnessed first-hand your relentless drive to “man the fleet.” You moved the force beyond the traditional “fit and fill” model, and started applying metrics that match Sailors to roles where their exact level of experience is best suited, you produced balanced, trained, deployment-ready surface crews on the waterfront, further reducing things like TYCOM manning actions.
Finally, you and your team expertly navigated the surface force through this challenging COVID-19 environment. You provided the tools and knowledge they needed to minimize risk, and providing safe operating environments to maintain force generation, you produced a tough, resilient, and battle-ready surface force that we can clearly see here across the waterfront today. Brad, your performance as SURFLANT has been outstanding; I couldn’t have asked for a better commander to lead the surface team through the many challenges we have seen this past year.
Brendan, welcome aboard! Your many talents and track record of success have you well-prepared for the challenges that you will face at SURFLANT.
You have a proven throughout your career what it means to be ‘operationally excellent.’ from your division officer tour aboard USS Lewis B. Puller, FFG-23, to multiple commands at sea, to your flag assignments, most recently as the commander of Carrier Strike Group 10 – you have a record of building winning teams that are smart, skillful, and driven. I have no doubt you will do just that as commander of SURFLANT.
The authority, responsibility, and accountability now go to you. I know you’ve heard me say this before, but I’ll give you the same advice I’ve given every commander I’ve been fortunate enough to lead: take charge, lead, fight, keep your cutlass sharp, and win! And if you need help – ask. No easy task – true, but I know you’re up to it.
You and your staff must decidedly strive every day to ensure our mighty surface force is indeed resolute, ready, and lethal on arrival. The nation expects nothing less. Maintain the momentum of this great team. I look forward to following your team’s many successes.
Now, let me shift my attention to the SURFLANT staff. Congratulations for the many accomplishments over the last year. My message to you is this: continue to be relentless on readiness. I say this because the situation demands it. As we all have witnessed over this last year, the world is ever-more dynamic and complex place. Every time one of our ships passes the ‘sea buoy,’ we can’t say whether they will conduct type training and exercises as planned but instead stand up to some unforeseen threat. That threat could take the form of a natural disaster, it could be that great power competitor holding our national interests at risk, or – as we have seen this past year – a pandemic. We must adapt to this new dynamic and complex reality swiftly, and with a sense of urgency. You must own it.
We must dispense with the mindset where we build readiness just in time for the next planned deployment and instead adopt the attitude where we constantly prepare ourselves for the unknown and indeed have our sea bags packed and at the ready. Being relentless on readiness means upholding standards at steady strain in areas such as preservation and preventive maintenance. It means tough, demanding and realistic training. It means refusing to live with temporary workarounds or leaving redundancy on the pier, even when getting underway for routine training. So my charge to you is: be relentless on readiness.
Brad and Susan, the Navy and nation are certainly grateful for your leadership. Fantastic job! Please accept my personal thanks for all you have done here in Norfolk. Brad, I am immensely proud of all of your accomplishments and am excited to see what the future holds for you.


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