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Good morning, everyone! It is wonderful to be back onboard USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75)—after my last visit in March of 2022 while she was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea—and now for the Second Fleet and Joint Forces Command Norfolk Change of Command Ceremony.
We’re here today not just to witness a change of command, but to celebrate a legacy of service and to embrace a future of unwavering resolve.
Thank you, Vice Admiral Dwyer, for your service to our country and our Navy, and for your leadership of this critical command for the past two and a half years.
Vice Admiral Perry, the challenges faced by this fleet should be no stranger to you—after all, you were leading operations for U.S. Fleet Forces Command when we re-established Second Fleet in 2018.
General Cavoli Admiral Caudle, General Badia, and Admiral Bauer, thank you for joining us today.
Admiral Chris Grady, then the U.S. Fleet Forces Commander, noted in 2018 when we re-established Second Fleet that “the days of competition at sea and challenges to our maritime superiority have returned.”
Well, current operations show not much has changed—and yet everything has. Five and a half years ago, in August 2018, Russia had not yet begun their second illegal war of aggression in an all-out invasion of Ukraine.
The Houthis—an Iranian proxy group in Yemen—had not yet ramped up their aggressive campaign in the Red Sea to the unprecedented levels we see today, posing a major threat to international commercial shipping.
When Vice Admiral Dwyer took command of Second Fleet in August 2021, all of that still lay in the future.
But even as we gather here this afternoon, our Sailors, ships, aircraft, and submarines trained by Second Fleet operate up and down the Eastern Seaboard, in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Red Sea.
The largest instrument of American naval power and the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier—USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)—has been on her first operational deployment for the past eight months.
Most recently, she was steaming in the Eastern Mediterranean, helping ensure the conflict between Israel and Hamas does not erupt into a larger regional conflagration. Another carrier trained by Second Fleet, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), is operating in the Red Sea as part of the same mission.
Their escorts, including USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mason (DDG 87), and USS Gravely (DDG 107) have been protecting shipping from attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen throughout their respective deployments.
These warships are successful in their missions—protecting American interests, reassuring our allies, and deterring our adversaries—because of the training they received and the operational prowess they developed here at home, led by Second Fleet.
Of course, today isn’t just about Second Fleet. As others have said, Joint Force Command Norfolk is responsible for ensuring the protection of the trans-Atlantic link and the Arctic. It is often said that JFC Norfolk represents the embodiment of transatlantic security – and I could not agree more.
As the Secretary of the Navy I can assure you that the Department of the Navy is fully committed to doing our part to support the ongoing expansion of the Joint Force Command Norfolk headquarters.
As the host nation for JFC Norfolk we are working diligently to expedite the resourcing of these new requirements and to partner with NATO to provide new facilities for JFC Norfolk at the earliest possible date.
The U.S. deeply appreciates the contributions that JFC Norfolk makes to ensuring security and prosperity across the Alliance.
NATO today is as important as it has ever been—and must continue to adapt to a more dangerous world.
As we’ve seen in Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, President Putin is challenging the most basic tenets of the Alliance’s shared values, that the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future.
And it’s up to Congress to pass legislation in the coming days to enable us to continue to support our Ukrainian partners in that fight.
The continued development of JFC Norfolk in the face of an evolving strategic situation and continued Russian aggression is essential to underwrite the peace, security and prosperity that has been the hallmark of the transatlantic relationship for so many decades.
Before I close, I’d like to spend a few moments to thank our most important guests present today: the families of both Admiral Perry and Admiral Dwyer.
The strong foundation our families provide at home enables us as service members to go to sea with confidence and conviction—and it is your strength, love, and determination that make us resilient—resilient enough to endure the long, difficult, and dangerous days away and far from home.
From the Perry family, we’re welcoming today:
His three daughters: the eldest, Maddie; the middle, Elle—who is a 2nd Class Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy; and the youngest, Georgia.
His parents, Albert and Marcia. Albert, thank you for your service to our country—I know you can attest to the challenge and reward of command.
Congratulations on still holding the record for shortest fast-attack overhaul during your time in command of USS Spadefish (SSN 668)—if you have any tips for our current commanding officers, I’m all ears! And his in-laws, Terry and Betsy. But most importantly, we must thank JoAnne for her support of her husband over the past thirty-plus years. I think that he would agree—and Betty would say the same of me—that he would not be here, taking command, today if it were not for you and your unwavering commitment to him, your family, and the Navy.
From the Dwyer family, I’d like to recognize: His son, Thomas, and his wife, Camille, who are expecting their first child later this year—Admiral, be ready, because grandchildren change everything. His daughter, Kennedy, and her wife, Peyton. His youngest daughter, Rachel. And last, but certainly most important, his wife Christina. Christina, I know your love and support has been incredibly important to Admiral Dwyer during his career. Thank you for sharing him with our Navy and our Nation, and for your continued advocacy for our service members and their mental health. Our Fleet is better off because of your efforts.
To both of your families, thank you. The support, love, sacrifices, and contributions you have made over the course of your son, husband, and father’s careers has been integral to their success and to the strength and security of our country.
The world has indeed changed in ways none of us could ever have suspected in the past two and a half years—and in the more than thirty years of both of your careers—and it will continue to change in the near future.
Preparing our Fleet to operate in an uncertain world, defending American and partner interests and our way of life is a monumental undertaking—and it never stops.
Every ship, every submarine, every aircraft that deploys from Second Fleet leaves for the critical juncture where training meets operations.
Maintaining a world-class and deployable Navy is not something that can be created overnight when crisis develops.
It’s the work of every leader here to ensure that our fleet and our force is ready for whatever the future brings.
Vice Admiral Perry, you have our full faith and confidence that you, your Sailors, and our NATO partners will continue to deliver the forces needed to confront the challenges ahead of us, just as Vice Admiral Dwyer has for the past two and a half years.
All of us here today are looking forward to your success.
Again, it is a pleasure to be with you all for this afternoon’s ceremony. May God continue to grant our Nation, our allies, and our partners fair winds and following seas. Thank you.
Carlos Del Toro
12 January 2024
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