This year has been chock full of positive change and progress for the Surface Force. As a community, and in step with higher-echelon Navy initiatives, we’ve set a course to “Own the Fight” – focusing on the guiding principles of good stewardship, professional development and safety.
As part of the process, we’ve been purposeful in reviewing all facets of how we prepare for, support and conduct maritime operations around the globe. We want to excel at our mission, now and in the future.
Part of striving for better has been, and will be, communicating with those invested in seeing our Surface Navy succeed (physically or emotionally, stateside or abroad, et. al.). Hence, along with being informational, we would like for this blog to be inspirational for opening up dialogue among our Surface Warriors – past, present, & future – and their families.
For this reason, we welcome any and all feedback on the type of blog posts you would like to see featured in future. Inputs can be left in the comments section or emailed to email@example.com.
For now, our intent is to steer blog content toward honoring our enduring maritime traditions, featuring efforts to optimize our current naval warfighting capabilities, and highlighting the work being done by our Surface Warfare Enterprise partners to shape the Surface Force of tomorrow.
In the end, every Surface Force commanding officer is charged with preparing their ship, their crew and themselves to be ready to ensure our Fleet remains a lethal global maneuver force ready to execute the National Defense Strategy. Every day our mighty warships are deployed to where the Nation needs them and our Surface Sailors serve with integrity and lead with humility, compassion and professionalism. We want to tell those stories and we want to hear what they mean to you.
Lastly, we want to extend a sincere thank you to the community that has supported this blog through the years. We look forward to the next leg of the journey with you. Your unwavering support of our Surface Navy is deeply appreciated!
As we welcome the fall season, the Navy continues adding new ships to the fleet. On Saturday, the Navy christens littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Kansas City in Mobile, Alabama. Next week, the Navy christens Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Frank E. Peterson JR (DDG 121) during a ceremony in Pascagoula, Mississippi. In November, PCU Sioux City (LCS 11) will be commissioned and PCU St. Louis (LCS 19) will be christened. In December, the Navy commissions PCU Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
It should come as no surprise that it takes a lot to deliver a ship to the Fleet: a lot of planning, a lot of resources, a lot of time, and the work of a lot of people. The needs of the Navy determine what ships are built, while funding determines how many. For the most part, new ships follow a chronological numbering system when being built.
But who or what determines the name of a ship?
The short answer is the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), who does so under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Prior to 1925, U.S. law included language explicitly assigning the SECNAV the task of naming new Navy ships. However, today’s code (10 U.S.C. §7292) does not. Nevertheless, given the location of Section 7292 in subtitle C of Title 10, which covers the Navy and Marine Corps, it is implied that the Secretary of the Navy retains authority.
While the assignment of responsibility for naming is very much a legislative matter, the actual name selection process is more a product of evolution and tradition. The names carry with them a heritage that becomes part of the future ships and crews’ identity – giving life to the steel hulls and deckplates that represent sovereign U.S. territory around the world.
Recommended names are forwarded to SECNAV by the Naval Historical Center (NHC) via the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). NHC compiles the list of recommendations from historical research and suggestions submitted from service members, veterans, and the American public. The recommendations follow general working rules for each class of ship:
Aircraft Carriers (CVN) honor past U.S. Presidents generally. Of the past 14, 10 were named for past U.S. Presidents and two for Members of Congress.
Destroyers (DDG) honor deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are named after regionally prominent U.S. cities and communities.
Amphibious Assault Ships pay homage to epic battles heavily influenced by the U.S. Marines, or famous U.S. Navy ships of the past that were not named for battles.
San Antonio Class Amphibious Ships honor major U.S. cities and communities, including those attacked on September 11, 2001.
John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers honor people who fought for civil and human rights.
Lewis and Clark (TAKE-1) class cargo and ammunition ship honor famous American explorers, pioneers and trailblazers.
Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPFs), previously called Joint High-Speed Vessels (JHSVs), are named after small U.S. cities.
Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs), previously called Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ships and Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs), respectively, honor famous people or places having historical significance to U.S. Marines.
As the Fleet has evolved, so have the rules. “US Navy ship-naming policies, practices, and traditions are not fixed; they evolve constantly over time,” noted a 2012 Navy report to Congress. For example, Cruisers were once named for cities, then later for states, and most recently for battles.
As previously mentioned, Destroyers generally honor famous U.S. naval leaders and distinguished heroes. The Navy, however, recently unveiled a few exceptions to this rule. In 2012, the Navy announced that DDG 116 would be named for a living person, Thomas Hudner, who passed away, Nov. 13, 2017. The Navy announced in 2013 that DDG 117 would also be named for a living person, Paul Ignatius. That same year, the Navy announced DDG 118 would honor an Army hero, the late Senator Daniel Inouye. (insert link to earlier blog about Daniel Inouye) DDG 120 and DDG 124 will honor living people, former Senator Carl Levin, and Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., respectively.
The LCS naming convention varied as well. In 2012, the Navy named LCS 10 in honor of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Earlier this year, President Trump announced that an LCS would be named Canberra in honor of the Australian cruiser Canberra (D33) that fought alongside U.S. Navy forces in World War II.
Amphibs are generally named for major U.S. cities and communities. An exception to the rule, however, was made for LPD 26 and LPD 29. They have been named after late Representative John P. Murtha and Navy Captain Richard M. McCool, Jr., respectively.
Ship names are normally announced after the ship has either been authorized or appropriated by Congress, but before its keel laying or christening. SECNAV records the decision with a formal naming announcement.
Congress has the ability to petition and influence the naming of ships but the responsibility ultimately lies with the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President. It would not be unprecedented for ship naming conventions to continue to evolve as new ships continue to be built and the focus of the Navy continues to evolve in order to provide maritime power and power projection required by the Nation, now and into the future.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sep. 15 to Oct. 15 and provides us the opportunity to recognize the achievements of the heroic individuals of Hispanic descent who overcame adversity in their careers and, through their actions, reflect great credit upon the Naval service. A great example is Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, for whom USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is named.
Sgt. Peralta was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States as an adolescent. Following graduation from high school in 1997, he attended San Diego City College. Peralta wanted to become a U.S. Marine, but was unable to enlist until he received his green card. Instead, he served in the California Conservation Corps while attending San Diego City College.
Upon becoming a permanent resident of the United States in 2000, he immediately joined the Marine Corps and attended bootcamp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. While serving as a Marine, he earned U.S. citizenship.
During a combat tour supporting Operation Al Fajr in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, he was shot and mortally wounded. As his squad fired at the insurgents around him, an enemy grenade was thrown into their midst; it came to rest near Peralta’s head.
The official citation for the Navy Cross award read:
“Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, SGT Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. SGT Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, SGT Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
In addition to the Navy Cross, Peralta was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon for his actions.
Peralta is remembered as a “Marine’s Marine.” His bedroom walls were decorated with his boot camp graduation certificate, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. The night before he died, Peralta wrote a letter to his younger brother, saying “Be proud of me, bro…and be proud of being an American.” He served with enthusiasm and patriotism, and his legend continues to inspire Sailors and Marines to this day.
On July 29, 2017, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. At the ceremony, Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller honored Peralta’s memory.
“This [commissioning] marks the commemoration of a life and the immortality of a hero. Sgt. Peralta’s legacy will forever be part of this ship. All he ever wanted to be as an American, to serve his country,” said Neller.
Peralta’s legacy – as a young man who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and then enlisted to serve his adopted country on the day he got his green card – epitomizes the journey of many of the Hispanic members of our Armed Forces.
Honoring their Hispanic heritage, during the commissioning ceremony Peralta’s mother gave the ship’s crew the order to “man our ship and bring her to life” first in Spanish, and then in English. The ship’s motto, FORTIS AD FINEM, which translates to “courageous to the end,” stands as a testament to Peralta’s dedication to his country and his fellow Marines. Peralta’s Navy Cross was donated by his mother and resides aboard the ship.
Since commissioning, the Rafael Peralta has participated in numerous sea trials, combat systems and engineering testing, and will ultimately deploy with a Carrier Strike Group. Along with other ships on the San Diego waterfront, Rafael Peralta participated in the filming of the television show “The Last Ship.” She is currently assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1 and is homeported in San Diego, where she will uphold and honor the legacy of Sgt. Rafael Peralta.
Guest blog written by a Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer
Last week our nation eulogized late Arizona senator John McCain as a steadfast friend, reluctant hero, and unwavering patriot. As our Navy’s newest Chief Petty Officers (CPO) prepare to don their anchors of gold at ceremonies across the fleet on September 14, it is prudent for them and the collective Chief’s Mess to briefly pause and consider how the CPO brand of leadership can have a positive and lasting effect.
During a 2008 U.S. presidential debate, Senator John McCain said, “Everything I ever learned about leadership, I learned from a Chief Petty Officer.”
I’d like to put that quote into perspective. Before recently losing his battle with brain cancer, John McCain was a six-term U.S. Senator who chaired the Armed Services Committee. He was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a former Navy fighter pilot, and Vietnam prisoner of war. He practically came from U.S. Navy royalty – both his father and grandfather were four-star admirals – also U.S. Naval Academy graduates who have a U.S. warship named for them.
So how is it that the power of Chief Petty Officer anchors influenced a man who in his own right was extremely powerful and influential?
Because a Chief Petty Officer somewhere many decades ago, took a young Ensign McCain under his wing.
Through personal example, good management, and moral responsibility – the Chief made his mark and influenced a life.
I can only guess that Senator McCain’s Chief was sincere, enthusiastic, and squared away in both deed and appearance.
Perhaps he was an HONORABLE man of unsurpassed integrity – one who led with his beliefs – and McCain followed him because of HIS actions. I am confident he held himself and his team 100% accountable and to the highest of standards.
My guess is that this Chief was a COURAGEOUS man – not absent of fear, but not afraid to make difficult decisions. His courage was likely born of mental, physical, and ethical strength. The Chief was fair but tough, because that’s what his leaders and subordinates wanted and expected of him.
I would be willing to bet my paycheck that McCain’s Chief was COMMITTED – he had a spirit of determination that pushed him to don his anchors everyday and work to make a difference. Understanding that his success was measured by the efforts of his Sailors and junior officers, McCain’s Chief likely didn’t take a “time out” from his commitment – and I am sure he didn’t force it either.
I’d like to believe this Chief’s CORE VALUES defined his thoughts, actions, and leadership. He put them on display everyday, leading by example and practicing what he preached. Through mentorship, motivation, and humility he earned the respect and trust of his team. They followed him not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
During that debate, Senator McCain didn’t say who that Chief was, but it could’ve been any one of us soon to be pinned, current or retired Chiefs. We train, guide, and develop junior officers and Sailors into future leaders. The men and women who will be pinned next week and truly know the honor, weight, and burden of CPO leadership were selected to join the CPO fraternity not only for what they have accomplished, but what they will do on September 15 and beyond – after initiation is finished and they are the “Chief.”
Whether it is advocacy, tradition or trust, thanks to this year’s initiation season, our new Chiefs have more tools in their toolbox to do what the CPO Mess does best: provide leadership on the deckplates.
As our new Chiefs are pinned, I am confident that my active-duty brothers and sisters in the Mess will rededicate themselves to their craft and ensure that its newest members will put their initiation experience and lessons learned to good use.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from the late Steve Prefontaine, one of America’s greatest distance runners:
“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”
Wearing the anchors of a Chief Petty Officer truly is a gift – one that must be payed forward every day.
Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific hosted a flag officer-led Female Forum Tuesday, Aug. 21, as a supplement to the Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium held last week.
Leading the panel were Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, Vice Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti, and Rear Adm. Yvette M. Davids. Jackson serves as Commander, Naval Installation Command. Franchetti currently serves as Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, and Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Rear Adm. Davids is the Senior Military Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
During the panel, the flag officers offered insight into work-family balance, their motivation to continue serving, and what their experiences were like as trail blazers as women – and in some cases, as ethnic minorities as well.
With regard to work-family balance, all panel members agreed that a successful career in the Navy required upfront communication with one’s spouse or partner, as well as with the detailer.
“I think talking about it is really important, and you’d be surprised how many different options there are to kind of re-wicker and re-navigate [so] you’re on track,” said Jackson. She also added that since she entered the Navy, she’s seen the culture shift from one where it was taboo to speak about family planning to detailers, to one where that sort of discussion is welcomed.
The group continued the conversation into what the flag officers’ considered the motivation to continue serving. For most, the decision to stay in was a constant analysis through the years. Inputs were taken from family members, friends, coworkers, and their commands. It was about being mindful of the balance between what was best for them and what was best for their family. Nearly all women admitted that at some point in their career, they seriously considered leaving the service to pursue other opportunities, but ultimately found they were happiest when serving.
The dialogue led into a discussion about how to successfully navigate a career path in the Navy while still being a mother and a spouse.
“You need a support network. You have to figure out who your allies are and what your support network is,” said Jackson, before emphasizing, “You’re going to have allies and they’re not going to look like you, and they’re may not behave like you, and you’ll kind of figure that out over time. So embrace that, and work together.”
She went on to recommend the Women’s Leadership Symposium and Women’s Lean In Circles; two examples of women-specific support networking opportunities currently in place in the Navy.
“Sometimes as minorities, we kind of delete ourselves, or we subtract ourselves from the table sometimes. We don’t step up, because we think we’re different, and we think everyone’s looking at us differently. But in reality, they’re not necessarily looking at us differently,” said Franchetti. She went on to say, “Like Admiral Davids said, if you’re striving for excellence, you’re doing your best, you learn everything you can to do your job, you’re being a team player – that’s what we do in the Navy.”
The Female Forum provided approximately 100 women, serving in sea and shore billets at almost every paygrade, the opportunity to directly interact with some of the Navy’s most senior female leadership. This forum took place in the week leading to Women’s Equality Day, Sunday Aug. 26., which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, when women across America were granted the equal right to vote.
Many women holding senior positions in the U.S. Navy today joined at a time when the environment for women to serve was a very different thing. In the 1970s, a series of naval policy changes allowed women to fill a significantly wider array of job assignments and paved the way for female trailblazers to shape today’s diversity across the Fleet. As the leaders of Female Forum noted, women have come far in the last century with regards to integrating into nearly all the billets in the Navy.
Thank you to all the women who have committed so much time and effort into serving the United States of America and the Navy, and through their service, made a truly significant impact on the lives of all Sailors.
The Surface Warfare community met August 20-23 at a number of seminars and symposiums in to review the efforts to make our Surface Force more effective and lethal.
Starting the week off with the Retired Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium (RSWFOTS) and leading into the active duty Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium (SWFOTS), flag officers from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) down met to discuss the latest in Surface Warfare training improvements and guidance. These training symposiums are annual leadership mentoring and training events that provide flag officers from the surface community a venue to discuss the Navy’s current and future needs so that naval assets can better support the maritime strategy. More than 60 Surface Flag Officers met in San Diego with a list of objectives – one of which was how to continue to improve current and future readiness, while making an impact at the deckplate Sailor level. The highlight of this two day event was the time that the Flag Officers were able to spend interacting with our Surface Warriors.
“A crew that is well trained, well qualified, and educated is a crew that knows their ship, knows their ship’s missions, and will be able to take that ship into battle, fight, and win,” said Brown.
He also added, “The biggest risk is the balance between this insatiable need to go do things, and the requirement to build readiness, capability, and competency. You can’t generate readiness for readiness’ sake. You generate readiness, and then turn that readiness into lethality.”
To ensure that standard is met, the Surface Force is addressing the concern of organizational drift into failure by meeting it with data-based analysis, addressing the identified six traits of a mishap, and integrating solutions into the Surface Force that directly mitigate the occurrence of those six traits.
The six traits are:
Someone decided not to or did not perform a specific required action or protocol that they had been trained, qualified, and certified to perform.
The ship, crew, or watch team had a previous near miss in often similar circumstances, but no explicit action was taken to correct potential causes.
Poor log keeping for the entire duration of the period examined by investigators.
Ineffective risk identification and mitigation in operational and daily planning.
Lack of watch team coordination.
Mishap ships were generally regarded as above average performers prior to the mishap.
In addition to addressing the root causes of these six traits, the Surface Force is working to improve the SWO career path to enhance leadership at sea. Changing the SWO qualification process and introducing a mariner’s logbook, similar in concept to an aviation logbook, are just some of the ways the Surface community is adapting. Many of these new policies are introduced and explained in depth during conferences such as SWFOTS and SNA West.
These events afford the opportunity for flag leadership across the Fleet to meet together and discuss efforts to improve the Surface Force, as the community continues to maintain and improve its warfighting readiness, emphasizing safety and effective risk management.
After two weeks packed full with rigorous competition, the 37th Surface Line Week 2018 came to a close today, Aug. 17. Surface Line Week (SLW) Pacific is an annual event during which members of the Surface Navy, including Sailors, Marines, Department of the Navy civilians, and federal employees, can connect and participate in a myriad of different professional and athletic events. The competition drew participants from almost 30 commands in the San Diego area to compete in over 30 events.
This year also carried a deep military significance: the centennial celebration of the United States victory in World War I. To honor this important anniversary, this year’s SLW theme was “Celebrating 100 years of Sea Supremacy” since our very own ships played a pivotal role in securing an Allied victory back in 1918.
The competition included professional skills challenges such as welding, shiphandling, valve packing, marksmanship, and various culinary competitions, while the athletic events included softball, volleyball, powerlifting, crossfit events, a 5K race, and much more. Events such as these are essential to the morale of each individual command, but also to the Surface Warfare community overall.
The athletic events provided healthy competition and a chance for all of the current and former athletes to show off their skills. The team sports helped build camaraderie among coworkers, while other athletic events allowed individuals to display their dedication to their fitness, an extremely important tenet of our Navy values.
The professional events delivered a public opportunity for competitors to showcase what they learned and perfected throughout their careers. For example, the Damage Control Olympics allowed Sailors to troubleshoot and fix a problem, such as a hole in a pipe, in an efficient and timely manner. In the context of the competition, no lives were in danger; however, the skills put to the test in this event preserve and enhance the crew’s ability to carry out their mission and save their fellow crew members’ lives.
“This is a very special event. 30 ships across 40 something events is a pretty spectacular competition,” said Capt. Chris Engdahl, Chief of Staff, Naval Surface Force Pacific. “You get professional, tactical, and training-wise better and better, and are surrounded by folks who have met milestones that we all want to meet and want to achieve.”
SLW allows all Surface Warriors across the San Diego waterfront an opportunity to compete with their current shipmates, against former shipmates. It also gives the entire community a chance to come together and celebrate all of their diligent and dedicated work over the preceding year.
“We are here to close out two weeks of hard fought competition, sports events, professional development events, and just to build camaraderie amongst different commands and personnel. We are celebrating some of the awards today,” said Yeoman First Class Darrell Lamber, the Master of Ceremonies at the awards ceremony today.
Some of the more unique events included a cake decorating competition and a Navy heritage tattoo competition. The cake decorating competition was open to anyone, including those not within the Culinary Specialist rate; however, rules mandated that the cake had to be baked and decorated within the command’s very own galley. All cakes were encouraged to reflect Navy colors and Navy pride themes.
The tattoo competition was for those who had already formalized their Navy pride by way of permanent ink. Sailors were not encouraged to go out and add any tattoos to their bodies. Acceptable entries included any tattoos of Navy style anchors, King Neptune, ships, pigs, roosters, or nautical stars with the intent of upholding the longstanding tradition of nautical tattoos that is part of our Navy’s heritage and identity.
These two weeks of competition brought out the Navy pride and spirit in all of the competitors and their supporters. All commands gave a valiant effort in this year’s competition. To see photos, videos, and a list of the individual winners, head over to the Surface Line Week Facebook page. Overall winners will be announced next week at the Surface Warfare Ball.
Great job to all who participated and we look forward to next year’s event!