NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Eight bells, rainbow sideboys and a call of "Navy arriving," heralded the arrival of acting Secretary of the Navy, the honorable Hansford T. Johnson, aboard what will soon be the Navy's newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
"Visits to the fleet are important," Johnson said. "They give me a perspective one cannot get from Washington, and the opportunity to meet the great men and women in our Navy and Marine Corps renews my determination to do everything I can to help you stay ready and help provide the quality of service that you and your families deserve."
While visiting the ship, the secretary participated in a special ceremony by reading the oath of enlistment for Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SW) Michael Benson, who reenlisted for six years. After the ceremony, Johnson gave Benson a Secretary of the Navy coin.
"I had no idea this would be happening for my reenlistment," Benson said. "This date was always planned for my reenlistment, but my master chief called and told me the Secretary of the Navy would be on the ship and would be at my reenlistment. I appreciate the fact that this command made the effort to have this done for me - it's really something special."
Over lunch in the commanding officer's inport cabin, Capt. Bill Goodwin, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, presented Johnson with a framed photo of the ship, and a Ronald Reagan ball cap embroidered with "Secretary Johnson."
While aboard, Johnson also spoke to the crew using the shipwide announcing system (1MC).
"During the Cold War, there were people who spoke of appeasement, of taking the easier path to maintain peace," he said. "In 1964, a man of vision spoke for taking a different path. He said there is risk in our course, but every lesson in history tells us the greater risk lies in appeasement.
"Now we're standing here on the ship named for that president of vision in a time when we're taking another more difficult path. As we take the path you're on, we continue our commitment to a legacy of excellence. We're providing freedom - freedom from a dictator and freedom from the weapons of mass destruction that he held. This is why we're here. This is why you and I are working so hard.
"In a very short time, Ronald Reagan will join the forces of freedom and help secure liberty and prosperity throughout the world." He added what the crew is doing now to prepare for operational commitments in the future is as important as what carriers are doing now in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The responsibility for the readiness, safety and well being of our men and women and their families is a constant concern in peace and war," Johnson said. "Know your jobs, stay alert and work safely. The war on terrorism will take a long time and will require the support and stamina of every American. The crew of Ronald Reagan will have many opportunities to advance the cause of freedom and honor the life and legacy of its namesake, President Reagan."
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.