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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! It is really wonderful to be here with all of you tonight … as do we take a few moments out of our busy lives to pause, remember our history, and celebrate the 248th birthday of our great Navy.
Let me just start by saying “thank you” to our amazing Navy Band and Color Guard for setting the tone for tonight’s ball. Let’s give them a big round of applause.
And, another huge “thank you” to Townie, Mike, Julia, and the entire Navy League of the United States team for tonight’s spectacular celebration and for all you do – year-round – in supporting our Sailors, our Marines, and their families.
Commandant, CNO 31 – Adm. Richardson – MCPON Honea, flag and general officers, senior executive service civilians, and senior enlisted leaders, thank you for honoring us with your presence here tonight, and thank you for your life-long commitment and service to our Nation.
And, to our Coast Guard and Marine Corps, industry leaders, allies and partners, and, of course, most importantly, our Sailors, our Navy families, and shipmates, thank you for being here to celebrate and take pride in the work we do every day in this life of service.
248 years ago, members of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to repurpose two sailing vessels with weapons capable of intercepting munitions and supply ships bound for America to arm British troops. With the lobbying of George Washington and John Adams, our Founding Fathers recognized that they needed to commission a naval force to counter Britain’s unchallenged command of the sea. They realized Britain’s naval superiority fueled its army ashore, and wreaked havoc on American commerce, and tightened King George’s grip on the thirteen colonies.
That fateful vote cast by the Continental Congress would become the Navy’s birth certificate … and that small, but formidable, Continental Navy would prove indispensable to the creation of our Nation.
And since that day – as many others have noted tonight – the United States Navy has stood the watch … 24 hours a day … seven days a week … protecting our shores and promoting our interests around the world.
Since that day, in both peace and war, our Sailors have operated from seabed to space, so the world can live free and benefit from the rules based international order.
And, since that day, the United States Navy has delivered “248 years of Power, Presence, and Protection.” That’s the theme for this year’s birthday celebration, and really highlights the Navy’s historical and long-standing commitment to being forward-deployed, highly trained, and dedicated to defending American interests at sea, on land, and in the sky.
From John Paul Jones taking tall ships to sea in the Revolutionary War, to Old Ironsides going head-to-head in pitched battle with the Royal Navy in the War of 1812;
From Admiral Farragut storming through minefields in Mobile Bay, to the birth of naval aviation in 1911 by Eugene Ely; and, then from Admiral Nimitz sweeping across the Pacific with the largest fleet in history, to Admiral Rickover building the world’s foremost nuclear force, our Navy has always adapted and delivered warfighting advantage to our Nation.
For generations, our strong Navy has ensured American influence around the world, expanded economic opportunities for the American people, and safeguarded global security and prosperity. Each day, we have worked hard to preserve the peace, prepare for war, and win decisively, if called upon to do so.
It’s this timeless mission of promoting America’s peacetime national security interests and prosperity and providing prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea – that’s what continues today… unabated and undisrupted.
Right now, our Navy-Marine Corps team operates forward all around the world, providing options, flexibility, and decision space to our Nation’s leaders.
Right now, they operate at the point of friction with our competitors and the point of friendship with our allies and partners in every domain on, under, and above the sea.
Right now, they are responding to crises; deterring would-be adversaries, and safeguarding the world’s sea lanes of communication. They’re strengthening our maritime partnerships, and enhancing our collective ability to provide disaster relief and respond to emergencies all around the world.
And right now, from the Arctic to the South Pacific, they are executing and delivering on our Navy’s core enduring functions of sea control, power projection, deterrence, maritime security, and sealift.
And, right now, we have four carrier strike groups and an amphibious ready group with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit totaling about 30,000 Sailors and Marines deployed [and] underway.
The Vinson and Ike Carrier Strike Groups headed out now on routine deployments.
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group continue their patrols in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific and in the Middle East.
And, then just this past week, the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group moved to the Eastern Mediterranean to underscore the United States’ ironclad support for Israel’s defense and send a clear message to any malign actor seeking to take advantage of this situation.
There is no other Navy in the world that could build, train and deploy such a lethal combat-credible force, operating in five different locations around the world.
Together with the Marine Corps, your Navy continues to deliver all-domain naval power to the Joint Force to deter would-be adversaries, respond to crises, and, if called to do so, fight and win decisively.
This is our calling. This is 248 years of power, presence, and protection.
And, we are doing a lot more – much more – to build our fleet of tomorrow. To guarantee our Navy remains the preeminent fighting force out on the seas and the most powerful, flexible, and lethal instrument of our nation’s military power.
The Navy is investing in robotics, in unmanned systems, in artificial intelligence, enhance maritime domain awareness, and build maritime coalitions –
The Navy is testing and developing new networks, like Project Overmatch, to reliably connect forces and share information across all domains.
We’re revolutionizing naval aviation with F-35, providing the Joint Force an edge over our competitors and allowing our forces to project power deeper than ever before.
And, the Navy is putting more players on the field. Just last week, we commissioned our first Flight III Destroyer, the USS Jack H. Lucas, and just this morning, commissioned our newest Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, the USS Hyman G. Rickover.
There is no doubt that our Navy is as critical to our nation today as we were on October 17, 1775.
In addition to today being our Navy’s 248th birthday, 2023 marks many other important, historic milestones in our Navy, and I’d just like to highlight a couple of them this evening:
The 130th anniversary of the Navy’s Chief Petty Officer.
The 75th anniversary of the naval nuclear propulsion program.
The 75th anniversary of Racial Integration of the Armed Forces.
The 50th anniversary of our All Volunteer Force.
The 50th anniversary of women flying in naval aviation.
And, the 45th anniversary of women serving aboard U.S. navy ships.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of when the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam in 1973. I’d like to take a moment to pay a special tribute to our Vietnam veterans, and their families for their service, and their sacrifice.
And you’ve already heard tonight we have some very special guests with us, Admiral Robert Shumaker and Commander Everett Alvarez, right over there to my left. They are the living embodiment of our Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment.
Both Admiral Shumaker and Commander Alvarez were jet pilots, and they were shot down over North Vietnam soon after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident on August 2, 1964. Commander Alvarez was shot down and captured days after, on August 5, and Admiral Shumaker, months after, in February 1965.
Both were held in captivity for over eight years – mostly in the “Hanoi Hilton” – the most notorious POW camp in Vietnam. Each day living in fear with hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Every day relying on fellow POWs in the camp for strength and solidarity, and each day wondering if that day would be their last.
Despite the physical and emotional pain, and throughout their captivity, they were warriors, leaders, and patriots. And they embody the fighting spirit of America’s Navy.
Admiral Shumaker and Commander Alvarez, we honor your exemplary courage and commitment to duty and your indispensable, indisputable gallantry and valor. You are part of the roll-call of inspirational heroes of the United State’s Navy.
Let’s give them another round of applause.
As we look into the future and to the decisive decade ahead, I am confident that our team will continue to serve with honor, courage, and commitment … and build on the legacy of heroic men and women like Admiral Shumaker and Commander Alvarez.
Tonight, like each night for the last 248 years, our Navy is standing the watch, underway around the world, preserving the peace while being always ready for war. We underwrite the security of our nation, and we are doing so by staying laser-focused on sharpening our warfighting advantage, strengthening our Navy team, and fortifying our foundation.
And, this year, like each year over our storied history, we celebrate the birth of our service and take pride in being the world’s most powerful Navy. We commemorate our history, and honor our people, our Sailors and our civilians – who have answered the call to duty – to serve a cause greater than themselves, to wear the uniform that symbolizes freedom throughout the world, and to ensure America remains a beacon of hope and democracy for all to see.
To all the veterans and Sailors here today, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you for serving our country. You have taken on the responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States. You have earned the respect of our great nation.
And, to our Navy families – the loved ones, friends, and support networks here today – thank you for your steadfast dedication. I always say that our families are the glue that binds the Navy together. And we should make sure that it doesn’t get dried up. And so I say a big “thank you” to all of our Navy families.
Not only are they our support networks, none of what we do every day would ever be possible [without then].
I am so incredibly proud of our Navy team – our Sailors, civilians, and all of our families – and I am confident in their ability to meet the challenges of today.
So let’s sit back, let’s send a quick thought of thanks to all the Sailors and Marines who are standing the watch so we can enjoy this wonderful evening together.
Thank you very much and Happy 248th Birthday, Navy.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti
14 October 2023
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