ABOARD USS KITTY HAWK, At Sea (NNS) -- "Last time I was here, I told you be ready."
Those were the words of 5th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating as he addressed the crew of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) March 19.
Keating, who commanded the Kitty Hawk Carrier Battle Group from 1998-2000, was aboard the ship he called his "home away from home" to brief the crew and embedded media on the ship's current status in regard to the then-possible conflict in Iraq.
"First, let me say thank you for what you've done so far," he said to the crew. "Six months ago, no one might have thought that you'd be here in the 5th Fleet (area of responsibility), but here you are. You've put plans on hold, cancelled plans for anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, holidays and vacations. I thank you for your sacrifice. (Commander, U.S. Central Command) Gen. (Tommy) Franks thanks you for your sacrifice. The commander-in-chief thanks you for your sacrifice.
"Second, I want to thank you for what you're going to do," Keating continued. "I don't have an executive order yet, but I think that it is more likely than not - and in the short term. During the president's address to the American people, he told the world that he had done everything he could to avoid war. Now, I know you will do everything you can do to win the war."
Keating also said it is his job as commander of U.S. Naval forces in the region to let the chain of command know when his forces are ready to execute any plan the president may choose.
"In a matter of hours, I'll meet via video teleconference with leaders including Gen. Tommy Franks," Keating said, "and my message will be clear - The men and women of the Kitty Hawk battle group are ready. By doing that, I am officially going on the record and telling National Command Authority that we're ready to go. That's a big check to write. And I'm counting on you to cash it."
Following his address, Keating took questions from some of the more than 20 media members embedded aboard Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk remains mission-ready to respond to emergent national tasking where needed and is currently serving with coalition forces in the North Arabian Gulf. Kitty Hawk is the world's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier and operates out of Yokosuka, Japan.
For related news, visit the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cv63.