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Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT)
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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)
ADM Christopher W. Grady
USS George H. W. Bush
ADM Christopher W. Grady
07 December 2021
Thanks again Opie.
ADM Richard, thank you for stepping in and presiding over today’s ceremony, and I thank you and General Vanherck for honoring us today. I’m truly humbled by your very kind words, your leadership, mentorship, and friendship these last three years.
And once again, thanks to everyone for taking the time to be with us here today in Norfolk.
The change of command is an important ceremony – it is derived from the earliest customs and traditions of our armed forces – and it is the formal exchange of authority, responsibility, accountability, and expertise – ensuring we maintain the most lethal, maneuverable, and dominate military force in the world.
That responsibility is absolute, and it is entrusted to commanders because of their proven competence and character - to lead, to motivate, and to build trust and confidence with those in their charge. And this is just as important today as it was 80 years ago when our nation’s resolve was truly tested.
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the executive officer of U.S.S West Virginia, Roscoe Hillenkoetter noted:
“Throughout the action, there never was the slightest sign of faltering or of cowardice. The actions of the officers and crews were wholly commendable; their spirit was marvelous; there was no sign of panic, no shirking nor flinching, and words fail in attempting to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion to duty of all.”
And I am here to tell you today, I see the same grit, tenacity, and selflessness reflected every day in each of our sailors, marines, fellow service members, and our civilian shipmates. What they can do together, combined with these magnificent machines, is awe inspiring.
As you have heard today from my bosses, we are without a doubt operating in a time of great strategic competition. The challenges and threats are real – and our fleets’ readiness to meet those challenges and threats is at a premium.
Fleet Forces stands at the center of naval operations – here, we man, train, equip, and employ forces that deploy across the globe, defending far forward, deterring our adversaries, protecting the interests of our nation and of our allies and partners.
Each day, all of us in uniform, both active and reserve, government civilians, and federal contractors across Fleet Forces play a vital role in force development, force generation, and force employment. In other words, they are the real heroes on the deckplates – and today is really about giving thanks to all those people who work so hard to keep our fleet resolute, ready, and lethal on arrival.
Now, before I get too far ahead, I’d like to thank my family. I always find that useful to get that out of the way quickly.
To my wife, Christine, who has been my partner, my confidant, and my rock upon which I stand since I was an ensign – you are the model of strength and service to our family, to the communities we have lived in, and to our nation.
You are the singular reason our three sons Nick, Luke, and Paul are the men they are today – men in whom I am very proud of, men who always step up to their responsibilities as sons, as husbands, and as citizens.
I have said many times, and you are a fitting model of what I am about to say, that family readiness directly contributes to operational readiness – that a stronger family means a stronger fleet – after 37 years of service, I can confidently say, it is because of you and all of our families service and sacrifice that we continue to be the most powerful military the world has ever known. So how about a round of applause for all of them.
As I mentioned earlier, Fleet Forces command is involved in nearly every aspect of the Navy – force generation, force development, force employment and in generating readiness to provide combatant commanders the resources they need to defend our national interests at home and abroad.
I view these responsibilities through two lenses – the Fleet and the Foundry.
The ‘Fleet’ is the fight – lethality, flexibility, maneuver – sea control and power projection in every domain from the seabed to space and cyberspace in between.
The ‘Foundry’ is how we enable the fight – the whole-of-nation effort to compete and win – high end training, maintenance and modification, governance and policy, and our industrial base – all those things that combine together to give us combat-ready ships and battle-minded crews.
Over the last three years Fleet Forces executed critical initiatives within the ‘Fleet and foundry’ to ensure the Fleet is supremely prepared to deter our adversaries, to defend our nation, and to fight and win.
First, let me talk about the Fleet.
The fleet is supremely prepared to compete and win today in the Atlantic and the Arctic because in December 2019, we restablished second Fleet with VADM Lewis and now VADM Dwyer. Further, Second Fleet is dual-hatted as Joint Forces Command Norfolk, the only operational NATO command in the United States. This action was a dynamic response to the strategic environment – establishing an expeditionary maneuver arm in the Atlantic that is ready to deter, defend, and fight in coordination with our European allies and partners.
The Fleet is supremely prepared to protect the homeland, to meet the challenges of persistent, proximate, threat, and to ensure support to civil authorities across North America because we have developed robust capabilities and resources as NAVNORTH to respond to homeland defense and DSCA operations.
The Fleet is supremely prepared to deter strategic attacks on our nation because we streamlined command and control of the most survivable leg of our strategic nuclear deterrent forces by standing up NAVSTRAT/JFMCC STRAT in February 2019 – where the operational execution is led now by my able deputy, VADM Houston, as CTF 114.
The Fleet is supremely prepared to carry out the critical mission of theater undersea warfare because in September 2019 we re-established Submarine Group Two, now under the command of RDML Brian Davies, to maneuver, hunt, and eliminate undersea threats to our homeland.
And further, Fleet Forces is supremely prepared to coordinate, command and control all aspects of force development, generation, employment, and readiness because of the tireless efforts of our Vice Commander VADM Boucher and Director of Maritime Operations, RADM Fred Pyle, and their teams’ efforts to ‘operationalize the staff.’
This action sharpened our warfighting edge through the MOC, bringing together the total force of active duty members, reservists, and civilians.
Together, they set a varsity battle rhythm to respond with speed and decisiveness to any and all operational challenges presented.
And now, let me transition to the ‘Foundry’:
The Foundry is supremely prepared to provide the Fleet the tools they need to fight and win because of the herculean efforts of our executive directors, led by Mr. Matt Swartz and his predecessor Mr. Mark Honecker in the ruthless execution of budget, policy, and practice.
The Foundry is supremely prepared to train and develop the next generation of warfighters because of Rob Weitzman and his team in the promotion and execution of ready relevant learning.
R-R-L is the foundational enabler of the high-end fight, focused on the center-of-the-universe, our sailors, instilling a culture of excellence – an elite culture – in our warfighters – so that they are resilient, intelligent, aware, and self-reliable in any environment.
The Foundry is supremely prepared to challenge our Sailors and train them for that high-end-fight due to the development of live, virtual, and constructive training and the first ever execution of the global large scale exercise led by our N7 team.
These high fidelity training scenarios and real-world operations work to develop the skills and knowledge needed to win in today’s complex, multi-domain, contested environments.
The Foundry is supremely prepared to sustain our forces at home and abroad because, through our readiness team led by RDML Czerewko, we matured the optimized fleet response plan.
OFRP is foundational to dynamic force employment and integral to Navy readiness. With the use of data analytics we are able to optimize the readiness generation of all forces in support of the service chiefs and combatant commanders.
The Foundry is supremely prepared to ensure our aircraft, ships, submarines, and all of their integrated systems are ready to fight tonight due to the leadership of RADM Bill Greene in the N43 team, RDML Matt Ott in the N41 team, Ms. Tracy Riker in the N46 team, Mr. Skip Hiser in the N6 team, and all of our partners in the industrial base both private and public.
To identify and respond to the complexity of new systems we are standing up maintenance operations centers, focused on eliminating bottlenecks, sharing ‘best practices,’ and streamlining supply chains, all to ensure our Sailors are provided state-of-the art, safe, reliable, and lethal weapons systems.
The Foundry is supremely prepared to research, procure, and deploy state-of-the-art weapons systems and warfare strategies a priority, because of the dedicated work of Mark Kosnik and the N8/9 team.
As an example, is their efforts with baseline change configuration plans. By continuously analyzing a seven year outlook of strike and amphibious ready group deployments, and synchronizing SYSCOM and Fleet modernization elements, capabilities, wholeness, and capacity, they ensure the Fleet deploys with the equipment and systems they need to fight and win.
And finally, the Fleet is supremely prepared and the Foundry is supremely prepared because of the incredible dedication of the entire Norfolk waterfront, who, every day, put the center of the universe - our Sailors – first. And who every day, recognize that our next deployer is the supported commander, regardless of ranks. I am especially proud of our type commanders:
SUBLANT, VADM Bill Houston
NAVIFOR, VADM Kelly Aeschbach
AIRLANT, RADM “Oscar” Meier
SUFLANT, RADM Brendan McClane
NECC, RADM Joe Diguardo
MSC, RDAM Mike Wettlaufer
And CSG 4, “Snap” Brophy for all they do. What a team!
Truly, the actions of every service member, government civilian, and contractor here at Fleet Forces , and across the waterfront, have played a critical role in supremely preparing our Fleet, and the indeed the Navy writ large, to fight and win in today’s strategic environment.
And of course, as the commander, none of this could happen without the stellar leadership and steadfast support of my front office team.
Every commander here knows well, we cannot function at our full potential without a strong Chiefs Mess – and I have had the privilege of working with some of the best in the mess here at Fleet Forces :
Fleet Master Chief Rick O’Rawe, and John Perryman.
YNCM Tanesha Wheeler – the senior flag writer in the Navy.
Master Chief Eric Johnson and Senior Chief Gary Ascles in the Virginia House.
And IT guru’s Chief Bell and Chief Garret.
My aides who kept my train running on time:
Brian Sanchez – and his infamous New York government vehicle towing incident,
Matt Campbell – the calmest person i’ve ever met,
And Leigh Tate – who moonlights for the Stafford police department as a star witness.
Also, my EA’s:
‘Dino’ Martin, Erik Eslich, and Mike Spencer.
Thank you for tireless efforts in coordinating the countless behind-the-scenes actions necessary so that I could focus on commanders business.
And to everyone who has worked diligently and tirelessly over the last three years supporting Christine and I – from my special assistants Brent Kyler and Bill Shafley, to Victor Martinez and the protocol team – we are blessed to have had the opportunity to work with, and get to know each and every one of you – thank you for all you have done us.
And now, to the incoming commander – ADM Daryl Caudle.
I have had the privilege of working with Daryl now for the past 12 years – and I can say without hesitation, there is no better qualified officer to lead USFF into the future than him.
Your experience as the submarine force commander, as well as your tours in Europe, the Pacific, and at the Pentagon will serve you well here at Fleet Forces.
Since you were SUBGRU 8, CTF 69, and my deputy at 6
Fleet, I am confident there were great things in store for you, and therefore our Navy.
I know this team will make you proud – Christine and I wish you and Donna the best of luck here as the commander!
Once again thank you all for being here today – and thank you to the men and women in uniform, our civilian Shipmates, our veterans, and all those who continue to serve in and out of uniform.
You honor Daryl and I with your presence – forever grateful for your support.
As we look forward onto the weathered horizon and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead I am going to leave you with a quote from famed Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian –
“As long as there’s unity, there’s strength. We must become so close with the bonds of loyalty and sacrifice, so deep with conviction of the sole purpose, that no one, no group, no thing, can ever tear us apart.”
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