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REMARKS AS DELIVERED Well, good afternoon everyone – and thank you, Senior Chief Rice, for the vibrant and kind introduction, and for serving as the Master of Ceremonies.
· I also want to thank Master Chief Weaver for organizing this entire event – and to all those who had a hand in making this week such a terrific success. Our Chief Petty Officer’s Mess takes this very seriously, for good reason, setting the highest standards for those who will be initiated this Fall, and ultimately don the coveted Khaki Combination Cover. How about a round of applause for the ‘Mess’!
· Alright, it’s a great honor to be here today – and it’s even more special since we are joined together here with our families, friends, tremendous leaders and mentors from across the waterfront, all gathered to recognize some of the Navy’s Top Talent! This is truly the best part of my job as Fleet Forces Commander.
· It is wonderful to see so many leaders taking time out of their busy schedules to be here today – we all know that ‘sweepers’ and the ‘Battle of Norfolk’ as well as ‘All Hands Working Parties’ will be waiting for us on Monday, but today we take a reprieve, as we proudly acknowledge the next generation of leaders. Thank you all for advocating for these incredible warriors, and for all of our Sailors and their families.
· Fleet Master Chief Perryman and all of our Force Master Chiefs – I cannot imagine how difficult it was deliberating over which of these outstanding Sailors would be named the ‘Sea’ or ‘Shore’ Sailor of the Year for the entire Atlantic Fleet. In my review of these impressive résumés, I was impressed by the sustained superior performance, thirst for collateral duties to expand their impact across the deckplates, technical expertise in-rate, and managerial and leadership competency. I am sure the battles in the ‘Mess’ were bloody, but great job working through the process.
· I would also like to extend my personal thanks and sincere appreciation to all whom so graciously supported this incredibly important week.
· To Ms. Mary-Ellen Baldwin and the team at the Navy League of Hampton Roads, the Waterfront Sheraton, the U-S-O, Fleet and Family Services, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, the Naval Museums of Hampton Roads, Nauticus and U-S-S Wisconsin, generous community sponsors, Mrs. Ivy Kilby and Mrs. Angie Perryman, and finally my spouse Donna, who leads by example as my teammate – thank you for your partnership with our Sailor of the Year program.
************** Sailor Greatness **************
· Let there be no doubt that the single greatest and enduring competitive advantage against our adversaries is our people.
· You are the engine that generates the force that spins the propeller to flank speed, conducts the preventive and corrective maintenance, and releases the lethal ordnance to win in combat and to crush whatever challenge comes your way.
· This ceremony caps off a week of rigorous interviews and team-building events focused on leadership, mentorship, and heritage. Your heritage, ladies and gentlemen, is defined by a long, impressive list of Sailor accomplishments like:
o Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class James E. Williams, who led a river patrol boat into the Mekong Delta in the Vietnam War sinking multiple vessels.
o Sailors like Hospital Corpsmen 2nd Class David R. Ray who was repeatedly exposed to enemy fire to aid wounded Marines, then helped lead a counterattack against enemy forces in Vietnam.
· Our Sailors under your charge are out there right now on the flight lines launching 5th generation fighters, down in the main spaces rebuilding a pump, in the Medical Wards providing critical care to ensure we are and will remain the world’s best Navy. They deploy across the world – leaving behind their family, their friends, and their loved ones – and they stand proudly together, ever guarding against the hostile actors of the world, making it clearly understood that today is the absolute wrong day to challenge us.
· These highly-motivated, ‘knife in the teeth’ Sailors are tough; they reflect the grit, determination, tenacity, and fighting spirit that defines what it means to be a Sailor in the United States Navy– whose reputation gives our adversaries significant pause.
· That is what makes your selection to even be here so special. You are here representing the best of the best of each community spanning from the East Coast to Bahrain and everything in-between.
· These nine Sailors were hand-selected from the 125,000 Sailors under my charge as U-S Fleet Forces Command. No pressure, but I can’t wait to see what you can accomplish while wearing Khakis.
· This week, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time getting to know each of them, and many of their families and mentors, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, these sea and shore Sailors are undoubtedly the best of the best – hands down, no exceptions.
************** Importance of Today **************
· Now, while this year’s Sailor of the Year competition was fierce, and that competition works to take us to the next level – we must never lose sight of why we are doing what we do.
· As you see and read about in the news, we are operating squarely in a maritime era. For decades now, we enjoyed freedom of maneuver around the world and have supported our land and air forces securely from the sea.
· We’re in a different world today. The sea has once again emerged as a primary focal point for peer competition – and the stakes have never been higher.
· Russia is actively waging an illegal war of ruthless aggression against Ukraine while year after year deploying its ships and submarines to our coastlines looking to shake our confidence.
· China is the pacing challenge to our way of life with its unprecedented proliferation of combat power in the Indo-Pacific while continuing to attack our stable, international, rules-based order.
· Having said that, no adversary in their right mind wants to confront our Sailors, our Fleet, or our Navy. Despite what we may read in the media about China or Russia, or even the internal challenges we face with uncertain budgets, manning levels, or the challenges and pace of modernization – I can guarantee everyone listening today, that you, our Nation’s Away Team, are feared and absolutely ready to go offensive and take the fight to the enemy.
· How do I know – that’s easy – it’s the extraordinary combination of your leadership, mastery, toughness, mentorship, and training that transforms our exquisite multi-mission platforms into unprecedented lethality.
· All of the Sailors we are recognizing today clearly demonstrate each of these elements. Each of them continue to be masters of their rate, foster teamwork and set high standards.
o As front-line instructors and mentors, they spend countless hours training the next generation of naval warriors.
o They create connected networks and a sense of belonging onboard our ships, in our schoolhouses and across our commands, they instill greater trust in our teams, and respect amongst one another. They forge the warfighting spirit that will overcome adversity and enable us to win in combat.
· Each of them serve as leading petty officers. They take the hard collateral duties, some which could very well be full-time jobs, and manage complex programs so well.
o Their leadership, maturity, and teamwork skills contribute meaningfully to the Navy’s long-term success by attaining outstanding advancement rates and recognition for the Sailors they lead. And it goes without saying, they make their chain of commands look good too.
o As ambassadors of our Navy, they selflessly dedicate countless hours of volunteer service across various outreach programs – strengthening the bonds of partnership and trust within our local communities’ throughout the nation.
o They are committed to their own personal character growth through forums like ‘Sailor 360,’ where they all contribute significantly.
o And, they are equally committed to the character building efforts of their teams, where, for example, they groom and assess subordinates for career development boards and motivate them to achieve the next qualification.
· I am sure everyone would agree, our Navy is in great hands. These outstanding Sailors are perpetuating the elite culture, which forged our proud legacy of fighting and winning when it matters most.
************** Families **************
· To the spouses, siblings and parents – I know you are as proud of your Sailor’s accomplishments as Donna and I are – and rightfully so. They are here in large part due to the immense personal sacrifices you have all made throughout these Sailors’ careers.
· I can say with utmost certainty, and I have no doubt everyone here would agree, that without the support of their family, the quality of their service would be unsustainable. You are just as much a part of their accomplishments as they are. Your unconditional love, strength, and support is the ‘special sauce’ that affords us the opportunity to attain our fullest potential, to sail courageously into danger, and to achieve victory in every endeavor.
· We can never thank you enough for all that you have done, for all that you continue do supporting our Navy and this great nation.
· Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation for our families, and all Navy families.
************** Closing **************
· Now, for the Sailor of the year candidates, you have all proven yourselves to be sustained superior performers – you contribute substantially to your command, your warfare community, and the Navy’s mission.
· Thanks to each of you for what you do for our Navy and nation every day. And thank you for what you will do going forward.
· I feel proud and privileged to serve alongside you. And although only two of you will take home the coveted title of ‘Fleet Forces Sea or Shore Sailor of the Year,’ you are amongst the top nine Sailors across half the Earth, and that should make you incredibly proud. It certainly does make me proud.
· Congratulations to all and thank you.