ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: Thank you, Secretary Stackley, for that all-too-kind introduction, although you really got it right. (Laughter.) And as others have said, this is really a great Navy day. And I have always cherished the view from the deck of a ship. In fact, those sailors that are in the audience, there is enough motion on there to remind that ships really do move at sea, and it’s a real treat to feel that motion, as little as it is and as briefly as it will be, under my feet.
Certainly this view from this ship is no exception. The sea of faces and so much Navy blue in the California sunshine – and I left that word “sunshine” in here. This is as much sunshine as we could have hoped for. And, Chaplain, just keep praying to get us through this. And it really does take me back.
More than any other ceremony I have ever been a part of on this day, I truly feel like I am coming home – home to the area, home to my home state, home to many of my family and friends, and home to the Navy that I so dearly love.
To Rep. Rohrabacher, Mayor Sloan, first of all, thank you for your superb and sustained Golden State hospitality. To all the other distinguished guests who are here, thank you for joining us, and I appreciate those on the platform joining me in this arduous duty of leaving the Pentagon, the snow for sunny California to support this ship’s commissioning. And as always, thank you for all that you do in support of our Navy and nation.
To Rick Hunt, Frank Pandoff (sp), Phil Landay (sp), you’re really getting a true gem, a ship that’s well-built and well-tested as they come, manned by performance-proven, highly motivated sailors. Congratulations, and may you deploy Dewey to the tip of the spear and turn her to. She will not disappoint, or Deborah will have something to say about that. (Laughter.)
And there’s so many organizations and people here who deserve thanks: Captain John Kurtz and the hard-working commissioning committee, the city of Seal Beach. This really was my first port of call. As I look at that navigation marker right over there, it was literally the first one I ever saw as an ensign as I came here from my first ship in Long Beach. Those who are here from the Long Beach Navy League, and everyone who has made this possible.
And of course thank you to Anna Mae Meyer, who carries the torch for her late husband, Wayne, whose fatherly advice and tenacious spirit lives on in each of these mighty Aegis warships.
Most of all, Deborah and I want to thank the crew and the families of USS Dewey. You’re a very, very special group and we have very high expectations. I have often said – and I truly believe – that families serve every bit as much as we do. Navy families have always made do with frequent separations from the ones they love. But since 911 we’ve asked them and all of our military families to sacrifice even more, endure longer separations and more dangerous missions.
And as always, family support has been the glue that has held our military together through these challenging times. So, having Dewey families here, almost 1,000 of you, here to celebrate with their sailors, makes this day particularly special, for your presence makes your sailors feel more at home. Deborah and I are tremendously grateful to share this day with you all here in our home. And I would ask those members of Dewey families to please stand up and be recognized. (Applause.)
Over a quarter-million of American’s service members also call California home, and their home treats them well. The support California gives to military families, particularly our wounded warriors and their families, homeless veterans and the families of the fallen, it really has been wonderful, from community-based organizations like those here today, to the myriad of churches, YMCAs and community centers that make California a truly heart-warming place to live. Deborah and I and the more than 2 million men and women of our military are thankful for everything that you do for us and military families.
As some have said, I grew up not very far from here and began my career in this area aboard the Destroyer Collett just over in Long Beach. And, actually, I thought it would end right here when I was but an ensign, in Seal Beach as it turns out. I was a safety observer during an ammunition onload, and with pallets of ammunition scattered around the deck, this one young sailor walked up to me with a 55-pound bomb and dropped it right at my feet.
I thought it would go off, the ship would go off, and that would be it. But obviously that ordnance didn’t explode, and thankfully neither did my career. (Laughter.) It certainly wouldn’t be the first time over the last five decades that I have been lucky. Today I feel very lucky for other reasons.
I’m somewhat removed from the Navy these days, so, as I mentioned earlier, standing on the quarter deck of this beautiful warship is truly a treat. But my job as chairman is the best I’ve ever had, and there are the most challenging times we as a military have ever been in. It has really given me the chance not only to appreciate my Navy, but to view it from a different perspective.
It probably goes without saying that today’s Navy is markedly different from the one I joined during the Vietnam era. Sure, all hands heaved at Reveille, sweepers manned their brooms, and for general quarters we all smartly manned our battle stations. But communication with the outside world was limited. We had neither e-mail, sailor phones nor satellite TV, and Twitter was something your heart did when you got a letter from home. Does anybody remember letters? (Laughter.)
Joint ops meant doing something in conjunction with the Marine Corps, and that was usually confined just to the amphibious Navy. And multi-national exercises mainly meant steaming with the British, Canadians or Aussies, people who spoke our language – well, mostly spoke our language. But, like all good sailors always have, we found good liberty and made friendships in even the most remote ports around the world.
Although we didn’t know it, and most of the time we didn’t even know exactly where we were except in some vast body of water – and as an ensign I certainly didn’t know where I was – we learned a lot about people. We deterred conflict just as much as we resolved it, and we built relationships worldwide by virtue of our presence and persistent engagement.
We still do today, of course, but much has changed, and it’s going to continue to change. We can no longer operate as a single service or even as a single nation, because today’s challenges are global in scope. Each service has had to adjust to change. The Army has become more modular, versatile and combat-proven. The Marine Corps has become more interoperable across the full spectrum of joint operations.
The Air Force has become more agile, expeditionary and lethal, and the Navy has, as it always has, likewise adapted, sharpening existing capabilities and acquiring new skills to meet the needs of our military, to protect the lives of shipmates, battle buddies, partner nations, and innocent people, whether serving outside the wire or simply outside their element, our sailors are astonishing warriors who continue to impress me.
We have had 10s of thousands of sailors in the dirt, in Iraq and in Afghanistan who have served incredibly well. From the first days of the war in Afghanistan, the Navy led in the fight. Seventy-five percent of the initial air strikes, immediately after 9/11, were launched from the deck of a carrier. Navy air still provides that capability today. CVs were among the first forces on the ground, upgrading and repairing air fields, and the enduring expertise and heroic sacrifices of SEALs and corpsmen have been indispensable.
Through it all, sailors have volunteered their leadership and courage to help our military, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan get through these most challenging times, whether as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, air and ground-based counter-IED missions, riverine forces or in countless other operations, too many to mention, sailors across the Navy have never proven themselves as multi-faceted mission-seekers striving – have proven themselves, sorry – as multifaceted mission seekers striving every day to get the job done.
Why is that? To paraphrase the wise words of Petty Officer First Class Simon, a proud Dewey sailor here today, they want more for themselves and their country. During their individual augmentation tours where they went off with the Army or the Marine Corps, they find the experience to be the most rewarding tour of their career. The story of Petty Officer Simon and his Dewey shipmate – shipmates Petty Officers Godwin (sp) and Hope (sp) – really typifies the commitment and dedication that I have come to expect.
These sailors served in the Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion 3 in Camp Bucca, Iraq, back in 2007, well before the violence started receding. Scared and humbled, the brave damage controlman called every day “mind-challenging.” Daily fighting riots to keep over 1,200 detainees inside the fence, he said, wore on the sailors, but he insisted we were always up for the challenge. The believed and proved that this tour made them stronger and better leaders because of what had been engrained in them from boot camp, to adapt and overcome.
And isn’t it important to know that the next set of elections in Iraq take place in a few hours. Whether serving with soldiers, Marines or airmen, the Navy’s men and women down range are still sailors always, and we will always be proud of them.
Even with rapidly evolving missions and irregular warfare challenges across the military, there are still things that only a sea-going Navy can do for a nation. As it has been since the day of the six frigates in the early 1800s, what the Navy does for our nation depends upon how and what Navy sailors do globally as statesmen. And although we’re generally pretty lousy at predicting the future, I can confidently tell you this: In the future there will be more allies and competitors, more challenges and more opportunities to engage, equating to a greater range of maritime missions than ever before.
So, 313 ships in our fleet is the minimum number we need, and we’re in the 280s today. We need that Navy to protect the global commons and foster partnerships, and we will always primarily depend upon our people – soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen – to learn, train and adapt across the ever-changing, vast range of military, interagency and international operations.
So, Cmdr. Buller, Master Chief Lattimer, and the mighty crew of the Dewey, we will always need your leadership and your dedication to each other and to the mission – leadership from everyone aboard this ship, everyone from the seamen right up to the captain. You can lead from the wardroom, the chief mess and the mess decks. We all have something to offer. We all have something to teach.
So let you be guided by the sense of duty which knows not the timidity of those who stay silent when they see something wrong. And let you be inspired by the strength and the fortitude of your families, whose high expectations of your conduct are exceeded only by those you hold for yourselves, which brings me to what I think is the greatest part of Petty Simon’s story – his unit homecoming on Christmas Day.
They were greeted by a swarm of people from the community of Bangor, Maine, who found out their plane delayed them from spending Christmas with their families. A hotel opened its doors to the returning sailors for free, and the community served them Christmas dinner. Petty Officer Simon said – and I quote – anyone that serves, no matter what the reason is for joining, gets this feeling of love for their country and their family. We serve so that we can come home.
And when DC1 (ph) Simon came home, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Cameron (sp) ran into her daddy’s arms, even though he had been gone an entire year, filling his heart with the greatest warmth and gratitude because she hadn’t forgotten him. Behind any good servicemember, he said, there’s an even better and stronger family, and I could not agree more.
Here you all are, and there is a spirit that is within this ship that I have known for the last 40 years – my wife, Deborah, the sponsor. And it is so special for the Mullen family to be here today and to think that we first started here in Long Beach before we got married and she watched my ship said. We got married and went to Norfolk, Virginia. Three deployments later, during which she actually, as a young Navy wife, backpacked around Europe before we had children. She then raised two boys, who now serve our country.
We moved back to the West Coast and she watched my ships leave San Diego, leave Hawaii, be stationed in the Philippines, and then back to Virginia again. And it was always she that did the hard work at home, and it was always she, Deborah, that watched and waited. And now it is so special for this ship and for this crew that her spirit will reside in this ship for the next 40 years and will sail the world, a place that she knew I was engaged in and loved so much. And I am forever grateful for your love and support. (Applause.)
This ship is named for a great man. You all know that. President Woodrow Wilson said that Dewey had the stuff in him which all true Americans admire and upon which all statesmen must depend in the hours of peril. When that last line leaves the pier, you too, Dewey crew, will be statesmen, patriots, warriors, and you will have before you many hours of peril. I cannot deny that.
You cannot shrink from that. Resolve yourselves to be up for the challenge. Resolve yourselves to be ready always. Resolve yourselves to lead the future, with dynamis ex cardias, the will to fight from the heart, leading a better tomorrow filled with hope for those in need, relationships that weather the toughest storms and joyous homecomings for all. May God bless this ship, may God bless our Navy, and may God bless our country. Thank you. (Applause.)
CMDR. WARREN BULLER (?): Admiral, thank you for your kind words and for your leadership.
Admiral, I would be honored if you would now place Dewey in commission.
ADM. MULLEN: As authorized by the secretary of the Navy and for the president of the United States, I hereby place United States ship Dewey in commission. May God bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail in her. (Applause.)
CMDR. BULLER: Thank you, Adm. Mullen. Executive officer, hoist the colors and the commission pennant.
MR. : Aye, aye, sir. Dewey, hut 10, hut (ph). Ladies and gentlemen, please rise. I direct your attention to the ship’s mast as we hoist the colors and the commission pennant. Quarter Master, hoist the colors and the commission pennant.
MR. : Aye, aye, sir.
MR. : Captain, the colors and the commission pennant are flying over USS Dewey.
CMDR. BULLER: Very well.
MR. : Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.