USS EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations (VCNO), visited the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)(Ike) for a two-day visit highlighted by an all hands call and meetings with leadership, Aug. 12-13.
As part of the visit, the VCNO, and Navy Total Force/Manpower, Personnel, Education, and Training (MPT&E) Fleet Master Chief, Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW/SCW) Scott A. Benning, took time to thank Sailors for their efforts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and extended a "thank you" to those Sailors' families back home.
"You are critical to our nation's security and make a difference daily," Ferguson told Ike Sailors. "The importance of what you do to help protect America cannot be overstated. I know how very hard you work, and I recognize the stress that puts on you and your families - thank you for your dedication and sacrifice."
VCNO and Benning both imparted to the Sailors the importance of adaptability and flexibility required in today's global environment. They emphasized that the Navy was changing to meet new demands and that force structure, manning, training and retention would align accordingly to ensure continual readiness.
"The future Navy will be smaller and leaner, but will remain flexible and technologically advanced," said Ferguson. "Today's Navy has never been more relevant or in demand and, I expect that will not change."
Benning echoed these sentiments.
"Today's Sailors are the best trained and most dedicated men and women to wear the uniform of our Navy," Benning said. "Everywhere I go around the world, I'm in awe of the Sailors in our Navy today. They are dedicated, devoted and determined to get the job done under any circumstances."
Ferguson and Benning also had the opportunity to observe several facets of carrier life and engage with Sailors that operate in work environments such as the flight deck, reactor spaces, mess decks and Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD). Additionally, VCNO reenlisted nine Sailors as part of an all hands call.
During the all hands call, the two addressed topics such as fleet-wide total force initiatives, deployment lengths, enlisted retention board (ERB), perform to serve (PTS) and best practices for the Navy family to navigate through day-to-day challenges of military life.
Ferguson said he "does not foresee another ERB in the future." Both he and Benning explained that the Navy is already seeing the positive results of ERB through greater advancement totals and higher perform to serve (PTS) quotas.
Benning spoke about the Navy's focus on improving afloat manning through voluntary and, in some cases, involuntary detailing tools to match Sailors with needed skills to priority jobs at sea.
"Now more than ever, we need highly trained and motivated Sailors in our sea-going jobs," Benning said. "That's where we fight, and that's where we protect against threats coming to our shores. It's also where Sailors will define their careers and set themselves up for success."
VCNO discussed the fact that operational commitments and the need for carrier presence in the world had stretched some deployments, but Navy leadership was keeping a close eye on deployment length and operational tempo.
"The average deployment for an aircraft carrier and embarked carrier air wing, because of the high demand, is a little over 8 months," said Ferguson. "In the future, we expect that number to go back down to around 7 to 8. I do not see 9 month deployments as our new norm, however the world does get a vote. Our Navy must be flexible and prepared to meet the needs of the nation."
Sailors on IKE were appreciative that VCNO and Fleet Benning took the time to thank them and inform them about the present and future outlook of the U.S. Navy.
Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class (SW) Tabatha Chadmon felt honored that the vice chief of naval operations was her reenlisting officer.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Chadmon. "This is my second reenlistment, and it's great to have it done by an admiral."
Chadmon was also grateful Ferguson came personally to talk about some of the future changes the Navy is going through to meet world challenges.
"It means a lot," said Chadmon. "It's the vice chief of naval operations coming out to explain this personally rather than just let us hear it through the news. It shows the necessity of it all. It shows that our presence is needed and that we're here to do a job."
Eisenhower and embarked Carrier Air Wing 7 are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.
For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.
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