Below is a transcript of his remarks:
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: It is an honor to be here tonight with my wife Linda. And I find it to be quite a privilege to be down here to join this group on this night for this celebration. And I truly mean that.
I’d also like to join the chorus in thanking Maryellen Baldwin for all you’ve done – not just for tonight but for decades in support of our Navy and this community, and how you’ve brought us together. (Extended applause.) It’s not just the admirals and the master chiefs that she knows, but there are literally thousands upon thousands of service members and families whose lives that she’s touched in a positive and – in a positive and life-changing way. So for those – for all that work out of the limelight, thank you. Thank you, Maryellen. (Applause.)
Tonight, we not only commemorate the first century of the aircraft carrier, but we celebrate the legacy of American naval power in preserving peace, fostering progress, and enhancing liberty for ourselves and for everybody around the world. Throughout the story of America and our grand experiment in democracy, sea power has always been a national imperative, to defend Americans and their sacred rights and to sustain and protect our way of life. Perhaps no single military platform distinguishes what our nation is and what it stands for more than the aircraft carrier. For 100 years, it has answered the call to service around the globe, and it has borne the burden of a long struggle year-in and year-out of preserving free and open seas and ensuring great-power peace in our world.
The carrier is a beacon to the world and a symbol of American values and American determination, and an embodiment of our relentless pursuit to uphold a stable world guided by international law so that the collective goals of all people, regardless of where they call home, can be fulfilled. It represents the dedication and the commitment of our Sailors and our civilians, and the skill and our innovation of our shipyards and our industry partners, many in the room tonight. And the strength and the resolve of the American people to, quote, “provide and maintain a Navy.” It is, in every sense, an American creation, as the governor said.
Today’s modern supercarrier, the Ford class, is a stunning outcome of more than 90,000 men and women from 46 states and 2,000 companies dedicated to our national defense. From the piping and the electrical systems to the propellers that push that carrier through the water, components from all over the country are assembled at Newport News from the keel up. And in many ways, the carrier signifies the United States’ growing leadership role in the world over the course of 250 years. And in turn, it personifies the evolution of the United States Navy to guard those widely dispersed global interests.
Just over two centuries ago the centerpieces of the United States Navy were the original six frigates. This included the USS Chesapeake, 38-gunned, wood-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate built just across the river in Portsmouth. Less than 100 years later, the Norfolk Navy Yard produced the first American battleship, the USS Texas, a 6,000-ton, coal-powered, steel-armored ship which represented at the time the pinnacle of American naval design. In less than three decades after that in 1920, a coal-carrying ship sailed into the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and sailed out two years later as the USS Langley, the nation’s first aircraft carrier.
And from World War II onward, the carrier has been and remains the vanguard of our fleet, your fleet. Much like the frigates and battleships that preceded it, they moved history and they moved with history. It is the world’s most lethal and flexible military machine, and the most effective tool at sea for sea control and power projection ever known to man. The carrier is a four-acre sovereign airbase that can move fast and command the oceans. Imagine this – imagine if the Norfolk International Airport were mobile. Tomorrow, if it were a carrier, it would be west of the Mississippi flying jets out of St. Louis. That’s how fast we can maneuver the critical capabilities that our aircraft carriers provide.
And this capability is remarkably efficient, as well, because the carrier is nuclear powered. Nearly every drop of its fuel reserves, totaling 3 million gallons, powers its primary weapon system, the carrier air wing. It has been a versatile platform for so long, and will continue to be, because we’ve adapted the airwing to a changing world and adopted its capabilities to a changing threat spectrum. Take, for example, the 51-year legacy of the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. Commissioned in Newport News in November of 1961, Enterprise quickly entered the fleet and participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War.
Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, it deployed to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans and participated in Operation Earnest Will regarding merchant tankers in the Persian Gulf. Enterprise enforced no-fly zones off Bosnia and over Iraq. And during the war on terrorism, it supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom over the skies of Afghanistan. By the time we decommissioned that ship 50 years later in 2012, over 40 different types of aircraft flew off the deck of the big E. The carrier remains a vital platform in our changing world for America’s security as a maritime nation, and for its prosperity within our global maritime economy. It reassures our allies and partners that America has their back in peace and crisis, because we possess the courage, the willpower, and the tools to make the seas thunder in defense of our friends, our commitments, and our values.
As we gather tonight, the USS Harry S. Truman is protecting the eastern flank of our NATO partners, and the USS Abraham Lincoln, she’s patrolling the Western Pacific. These forces represent the first line of our nation’s homeland defense. And they are prepared to deter any adversary from using the oceans to attack American or allied shores. Ladies and gentlemen, the United States stands ready to meet the challenges of our time, because we possess the strongest navy in the world. (Applause.) We must endeavor to keep it that way. For our members of Congress, I’m asking for a 500-ship fleet, at least 12 aircraft carriers – (laughter, cheers, applause) – I know that you know that – because our adversaries are modernizing and they’re growing. The security environment is evolving, the technologies that will characterize naval warfare are changing, and the pace of change is only getting faster.
So on this occasion and in this place, with the many bending bays and swerving shores of Hampton Roads around us, the ripples of the Atlantic Ocean flowing beside us, and the legacy of so many Sailors echoing among us, let us take great pride in not only celebrating the carrier’s place in history but perpetuating that memory so that we can have a safer, more secure, and brighter world for our children and their children to prosper in. Again, I thank you all for joining us tonight. I would ask that you keep our Sailors and Marines in your thoughts and prayers as they stand watch in the far-flung corners of the globe, out of sight but in harm’s way, to protect this fragile thing that we call democracy. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Adm. Michael M. Gilday
20 March 2022
23 March 2022
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