A Navy F-5N Tiger II crashed about 25 miles off the coast of Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., at 9:20 a.m local time., the service announced on Wednesday. The pilot of the fighter, assigned to the “Sun Downers” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111, was recovered by the crew of a MH-60S Knight Hawk. […]
An F-5N Tiger II assigned to the Sun Downers of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 launches from Boca Chica Field in 2014. US Navy Phoro
A Navy F-5N Tiger II crashed about 25 miles off the coast of Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., at 9:20 a.m local time., the service announced on Wednesday.
The pilot of the fighter, assigned to the “Sun Downers” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111, was recovered by the crew of a MH-60S Knight Hawk. The pilot was flown to a Miami hospital for further treatment, according to a service statement.
“The safety and well-being of our pilot remains our top priority. The cause of the incident will be investigated. More details will be released as they become available,” reads the statement.
In 2017, an F-5II assigned to the Sundowners crashed off the coast of Key West. The pilot was recovered by the Coast Guard following the crash.
The Sun Downers are Navy Reserve’s fleet adversary program fly as an opposition force in air combat training. Pilots train against the Navy, Marine Corps U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard fighter squadrons.
The following is the complete May 31, 2023, statement from the service.
We can confirm that a Navy pilot assigned to a Naval Air Station Key West-based Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 “Sun Downers,” ejected from an F-5N aircraft approximately 25 miles from Boca Chica Field at approximately 9:20 a.m. today. A NAS Key West Search and Rescue crew launched an MH-60S helicopter and rescued the pilot, who is being transported to a Miami-area hospital for further evaluation.
VFC-111 is a Navy Reserve squadron composed of Training and Administration of the Reserve (TAR) and Selected Reserve personnel.
The safety and well-being of our pilot remains our top priority. The cause of the incident will be investigated. More details will be released as they become available.
The White House on Tuesday nominated Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, a key figure in the service’s Force Design 2030 modernization efforts, to serve as the next commandant, according to a Senate notification. If confirmed, Smith would succeed Gen. David Berger as the Marine Corps’ top officer. Berger is expected to retire this […]
Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks during his visit to Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, College Station, Texas, Nov. 18, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo
The White House on Tuesday nominated Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, a key figure in the service’s Force Design 2030 modernization efforts, to serve as the next commandant, according to a Senate notification.
If confirmed, Smith would succeed Gen. David Berger as the Marine Corps’ top officer. Berger is expected to retire this summer.
Prior to becoming the assistant commandant in 2021, Smith led Marine Corps Combat Development Command and was the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, where he oversaw the Marine Corps’ effort to overhaul the force to make it lighter and more mobile for a potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific. Known as Force Design 2030, the modernization push has been at the forefront of Berger’s time as commandant and an initiative Smith spearheaded as the Marine Corps’ top requirements officer.
During his time as the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, Smith worked closely with Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9) at the time, on creating more seamless integration between the two services.
“Naval integration and where we are going as a force, it’s based on the threat. The pacing threat,” Smith said in 2020 at an event with Kilby.
“If anyone questions why we are doing this, Jim and I are reading, along with the other deputy CNOs, deputy commandants, reading the daily intelligence that requires you to move in this direction. It is clear as the nose on your face.”
Prior to serving as the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, Smith was the commanding general of the Okinawa, Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force. His also previously led U.S. Marine Corps Forces Southern Command.
A career infantryman, Smith is a graduate of Texas A&M University, according to his service biography.
“He has commanded at every level, including Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during Operation Assured Response in Monrovia, Liberia; 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom; and 8th Marine Regiment/ Regimental Combat Team 8 during Operation Enduring Freedom. He also served in Caracas, Venezuela as part of the U.S. Military Group,” according to his service bio.
Smith’s nomination helps solidify the future of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030, which has received criticism of retired generals. The overhaul has seen the Marine Corps divest of legacy platforms like tanks in favor of lighter equipment that smaller units of Marines could haul around as they set up expeditionary bases on Pacific islands, from which they could fire anti-ship missiles.
Hauling goods via transport helicopter to replenish a military unit is a routine assignment. Dangling supplies over a ballistic submarine skimming across the Western Pacific is anything but routine. A pair of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made a supply run to ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) as it traveled in the Philippine Sea. The vertical replenishment […]
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph McDonnell, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, lowers a package to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) during a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) in the Philippine Sea, May 9, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo
Hauling goods via transport helicopter to replenish a military unit is a routine assignment. Dangling supplies over a ballistic submarine skimming across the Western Pacific is anything but routine.
A pair of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made a supply run to ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) as it traveled in the Philippine Sea. The vertical replenishment mission marked a rare occasion for Marine Corps aviation to lend its hand to support an Ohio-class submarine.
The “Heavy Haulers” air crews of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 – based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Calif., but currently assigned to Japan-based 1st Marine Aircraft Wing – conducted the May 9 vertical replenishment mission for one of the Navy’s strategic nuclear weapons-carrying submarines.
”This was the first time that 1st MAW conducted a vertical resupply for an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, delivering critical resources without disrupting maritime security operations,” Maj. Rob Martins, a 1st MAW spokesman in Japan, told USNI News via email.
For the Navy, having the Marine Corps’ heavy-lift helicopters perform resupply missions adds to the network of support for maritime logistics across the vast Pacific. As one of the Navy’s ballistic missile nuclear submarines, the Bangor, Wash.-based Maine spends much of its time submerged during its long undersea patrols. The boat’s operations remain secretive.
“The U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force has demonstrated yet again that we have the proven capability to work seamlessly alongside III Marine Expeditionary Force to execute our mission, allowing us to remain on station,” Cmdr. Travis Wood, commander of the Bangor, Wash.-based Maine, said in a Marine Corps news release about the mission. “Rotary-wing vertical replenishment such as this allows us to quickly resupply so that we can constantly maintain pressure against any adversary who would wish to do harm to the homeland.”
The recent helicopter resupply mission provided training for the aircrews and showcased another slice of how the Marine Corps’ “stand-in-force” deployed and operating in the Indo-Pacific region would support undersea maritime forces in a potential future conflict. The Marine Corps defines the stand-in force as the Marines operating in the first island chain – stretching from the Japanese islands to Taiwan, parts of the Philippines and down to Borneo – within the range of Chinese weapons.
“It highlights the importance of 1st MAW’s established forward presence, which allows us to seamlessly integrate with our naval partners operating in the first island chain,” Martins said.
The beefy CH-53E helicopter’s three engines give it enough internal and external lift capability, enabling it to carry a light armored vehicle or Humvee from a sling load. The platform’s long-running role as the Marine Corps’ king of external lift will be replaced by the CH-53K King Stallion later this decade. How much cargo a helicopter can externally sling-load depends on several factors, such as load weight, distance to the mission, altitude and climate.
U.S. Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, complete a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) with the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741) in the Philippine Sea, May 9, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo
While the CH-53E can travel more than 600 miles on a tank of fuel, its refueling probe stretches its legs and reach much farther.
The helicopter’s in-flight capability enables it to conduct a wider range of missions supporting the “stand-in-force” poised against adversaries in a future conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. In that scenario of the service’s Force Design 2030 modernization plan – which is driving much of the service’s current training focus – SIF units in the first-island chain would operate in the range of Chinese missiles, the place where fighting on land, at sea and in the air would be the most likely.
“The intricacies of seamlessly sustaining the force through naval integration and aviation-delivered logistics is a testament to our adaptability, readiness, and ability to project power within the Indo-Pacific,” Col. Christopher Murray, who commands Marine Aircraft Group 36 in Okinawa, Japan, said in the 1st MAW news release.
As interoperability goes, it’s not every day that Marines get to work closely with the Navy’s boomer fleet. On March 27, 2022, Marines from Task Force 61/2 trained with the surfaced guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN-729) near Souda Bay, Greece, to launch and recover their inflatable, combat rubber raiding craft. On Feb. 2, 2021, Force Reconnaissance Marines and an MV-22B Osprey with Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force joined together for an integration exercise off Okinawa with the guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSG-726).
The following is a May 22, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number […]
The following is a May 22, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report
Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number of defense acquisition programs. Compared to the standard or default approach of annual contracting, MYP and BBC have the potential for reducing weapon procurement costs by a few or several percent.
Under annual contracting, DOD uses one or more contracts for each year’s worth of procurement of a given kind of item. Under MYP, DOD instead uses a single contract for two to five years’ worth of procurement of a given kind of item without having to exercise a contract option for each year after the first year. DOD needs congressional approval for each use of MYP. There is a permanent statute governing MYP contracting—10 U.S.C. 3501 (the text of which was previously codified at 10 U.S.C. 2306b). Under this statute, a program must meet several criteria to qualify for MYP.
Compared with estimated costs under annual contracting, estimated savings for programs being proposed for MYP have ranged from less than 5% to more than 15%, depending on the particulars of the program in question, with many estimates falling in the range of 5% to 10%. In practice, actual savings from using MYP rather than annual contracting can be difficult to observe or verify because of cost growth during the execution of the contract due to changes in the program independent of the use of MYP rather than annual contracting.
BBC is similar to MYP in that it permits DOD to use a single contract for more than one year’s worth of procurement of a given kind of item without having to exercise a contract option for each year after the first year. BBC is also similar to MYP in that DOD needs congressional approval for each use of BBC. BBC differs from MYP in the following ways:
There is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC.
There is no requirement that BBC be approved in both a DOD appropriations act and an act other than a DOD appropriations act.
Programs being considered for BBC do not need to meet any legal criteria to qualify for BBC, because there is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC that establishes such criteria.
A BBC contract can cover more than five years of planned procurements.
Economic order quantity (EOQ) authority—the authority to bring forward selected key components of the items to be procured under the contract and purchase the components in batch form during the first year or two of the contract—does not come automatically as part of BBC authority because there is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC that includes EOQ authority as an automatic feature.
BBC contracts are less likely to include cancellation penalties.
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its escorts are operating off the coast of Guam awaiting the call to assist in disaster relief ashore, two Navy officials told USNI News. Last week, Nimitz was dispatched to aid civil authorities if requested in a defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) after Super Typhoon Mawar passed near […]
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on May 26, 2023. US Navy Photo
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its escorts are operating off the coast of Guam awaiting the call to assist in disaster relief ashore, two Navy officials told USNI News.
Last week, Nimitz was dispatched to aid civil authorities if requested in a defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) after Super Typhoon Mawar passed near Guam with 140 miles per hour and waves up to 30 feet high, according to the National Weather Service.
There’s been widespread destruction across the island, including power and water outages across the U.S. territory that’s home to 150,000. The territory’s leadership has formally petitioned the Biden administration for federal assistance.
Until civil authorities formally request aid, the carrier is assisting by providing communication assistance to the island, according to a Navy official.
It’s the worst typhoon to hit Guam since Typhoon Pongsona made landfall in 2002.
“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s going to take weeks to clean up,” Landon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said last week.
The strike group deployed on Dec. 3 and has been operating in the Western Pacific since Dec. 16th, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.
Nimitz deployed with Carrier Air Wing 17 embarked, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60). It’s unclear which of the strike group’s escorts are operating nearby.
Meanwhile, USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and are headed east toward the West Coast, officials confirmed to USNI News. The Pentagon had considered also dispatching the Makin Island ARG top support potential humanitarian relief operations on Guam, but has elected instead to send the ARG closer to the U.S.
Makin Island, USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23) left San Diego on Nov. 9.
Amid a delay in fielding the Marine Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle program, sailors and Marines are adjusting how they move Marines ashore. Last summer, the three ships in the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group became the first U.S. Navy vessels certified to operate the new ACVs. But a late-stage change ahead of their deployment […]
A member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 1 Expeditionary Mine Counter Measure (ExMCM) Company 1-3 participates in a raise, tow, beach operation with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 17, 2023. US Navy Photo
Amid a delay in fielding the Marine Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle program, sailors and Marines are adjusting how they move Marines ashore.
Last summer, the three ships in the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group became the first U.S. Navy vessels certified to operate the new ACVs. But a late-stage change ahead of their deployment meant the ARG and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit would deploy without the new armored vehicles that are able to swim from an amphibious warship to shore across the open ocean.
During the last amtrac age, the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault doctrine called for two-thirds of Marines to hit the shore from the sea, while a third of the force would fly. But without the AAVs or ACVs, the Marine Corps is rethinking how to deploy Marines ashore. In the interregnum between the amtracs and the new ACV, the MEUs have adapted to employ other ship-to-shore capabilities.
The Makin Island ARG/MEU – which has been deployed to the Indo-Pacific for the last seven months – has instead relied on its five Landing Craft Air Cushions and one Landing Craft Utility to land Marines ashore.
“We saw no degradation to any capability in our ship-to-shore connectors during any portion of the exercise,” Col. Samuel Meyer, the commanding officer of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked with the Makin Island ARG, told USNI News in an interview last week.
The ability to pivot to the other platforms, for which the ARG/MEU also has certifications, demonstrates the nimbleness of the amphibious force, USS Makin Island (LHD-8) commanding officer Capt. Andria Slough told USNI News.
Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 17, 2023. US Navy Photo
“I think that just goes back to show how agile these L-class ships, with their combined Marine compliment, really are. You can change that plan – it happened to change for deployment – but it can change for specific missions too. And we’ve seen that in the past, specifically with humanitarian aid, disaster relief, or small security packages that are needed wherever. Not everything’s a full-scale war. So we’re very scalable, very agile,” Slough said.
USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23) deployed in November as an ARG with the 13th MEU embarked. Since then, the ARG/MEU has participated in a host of exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific with regional allies and partners like Japan and the Philippines.
“When you have the change of a configuration, you don’t have a loss of capability. So it’s the team together that manifest this robust capability and it’s a team fight,” Meyer said.
A Marine sits atop a LAV-25 aboard a landing craft utility in the well deck of USS Bataan (LHD-5) on April 23, 2023. USNI News Photo
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were slated to be the first East Coast ARG/MEU to deploy with the ACVs. But the ongoing operational pause meant the MEU had to rethink its ship-to-shore capabilities without the ACVs, one Marine told USNI News on an embark to Bataan last month.
In place of ACVs, Bataan was filled with the Marines’ LAV-25 light armored vehicles. The LAVs were both in the big deck’s vehicle stowage and packed aboard two LCUs in Bataan’s well deck. The amphibious assault battalion cross trained to operate 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats, 26th MEU commander Col. Dennis Sampson told USNI News during an interview aboard Bataan in April.
“What we’ve done is taken Marines that are familiar with water operations from the amphibious assault battalion Navy coxswain courses to a high standard, and we also put them through a maintenance course that is associated with those 11-meter RHIBs,” Sampson said.
“We’re heavily reliant on our aviation assets to build combat power ashore. We’re more reliant on LCACs and LCUs but they’re not equivalent to tracks. We’d like to have those ACVs.”
An ACV with 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division onshore and USS Anchorage (LPD-23) and two Navy safety boats in the water. USNI News Photo
It’s unclear when the Marine Corps will deploy the ACVs for the first time. After the service decided not to deploy the new vehicles with the 13th MEU, Marine Corps deputy commandant for combat development and integration Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl said last year that the 15th MEU would be the first to deploy with the ACVs.
Last month, when announcing a new training unit to help with the ACV transition, the Marine Corps said it would not “speculate on future deployments,” but wants to focus on training the operators.
For now, the Marines out with the fleet feel they have what they need to achieve their missions.
“I don’t think there’s any capability lost for anything that we’ve done. We certainly look forward to the modernization of the ACV when it comes out, but that will be when it’s ready and that will be on a future MEU,” Meyer said.
The following is the Congressional Research Service May 18, 2023 In Focus report, Navy TAGOS-25 Ocean Surveillance Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy in FY2022 procured the first of a planned class of seven new TAGOS-25 class ocean surveillance ships at a cost of $434.4 million. The Navy’s FY2024 […]
The following is the Congressional Research Service May 18, 2023 In Focus report, Navy TAGOS-25 Ocean Surveillance Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report
The Navy in FY2022 procured the first of a planned class of seven new TAGOS-25 class ocean surveillance ships at a cost of $434.4 million. The Navy’s FY2024 budget submission shows that the ship’s estimated procurement cost has since grown to $789.6 million—an increase of $355.2 million, or 81.8%. The Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget requests $355.2 million in additional cost-to-complete procurement funding to pay for this cost growth. The Navy wants to procure the second TAGOS-25 class ship in FY2025.
Meaning of TAGOS Designation
In the designation TAGOS (also written as T-AGOS), the T means the ships are operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC); the A means they are auxiliary (i.e., support) ships; the G means they have a general or miscellaneous mission; and the OS means the mission is ocean surveillance. The TAGOS-25 program was previously known as the TAGOS(X) program, with the (X) meaning that the precise design for the ship had not yet been determined. Some Navy budget documents may continue to refer to the program that way.
TAGOS Ships in the Navy
TAGOS ships support Navy antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations. As stated in the Navy’s FY2024 budget submission, TAGOS ships “gather underwater acoustical data to support the mission of the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) by providing a ship platform capable of theater anti-submarine acoustic passive and active surveillance…. The two current classes of [TAGOS] surveillance ships use Surveillance Towed-Array Sensor System (SURTASS) equipment to gather undersea acoustic data.” Figure 3 shows a simplified diagram of a TAGOS-25 ship with its SURTASS arrays.
Current TAGOS Ships
The Navy’s five aging TAGOS ships include four Victorious (TAGOS-19) class ships (TAGOS 19 through 22) that entered service in 1991-1993, and one Impeccable (TAGOS-23) class ship that entered service in 2000. As of the end of FY2021, all five were homeported at Yokohama, Japan. The ships use a Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) design, in which the ship’s upper part sits on two struts that extend down to a pair of submerged, submarine-like hulls . The struts have a narrow cross section at the waterline (i.e., they have a small waterplane area). The SWATH design has certain limitations, but it has features (including very good stability in high seas) that are useful for SURTASS operations.
Quantity, Schedule, and Design
The Navy wants to procure seven TAGOS-25 class ships as replacements for its five in-service TAGOS ships. The first TAGOS-25 class ship was procured in FY2022. The Navy wants to procure the second through fifth ships in the class in FY2025-FY2028 at a rate of one ship per year. The Navy’s notional design for the TAGOS-25 class employs a SWATH design that would be larger and faster than the in-service TAGOS ships.
The following is the May 26, 2023, U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony and the text of the address by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Good morning, Class of 2023! I don’t think there’s anybody out there, Sean. Good morning, Class of 2023! Secretary Del Toro, Admiral Gilday, General Berger: thanks for your leadership of our […]
The following is the May 26, 2023, U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony and the text of the address by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Good morning, Class of 2023!
I don’t think there’s anybody out there, Sean. Good morning, Class of 2023!
Secretary Del Toro, Admiral Gilday, General Berger: thanks for your leadership of our Navy and our Marine Corps.
And it’s great to see so many distinguished guests and local leaders, as well as members of Congress here today. Thanks for your support of this great Academy.
Vice Admiral Buck, family, friends, and above all graduates: I am absolutely delighted to join you on this proud day.
It is great to be here.
Even though the first guy I met said, “Beat Army!”
And it is indeed an honor to help welcome the next generation of Sailors and Marines to what is, beyond any doubt, the finest Navy that the world has ever known.
Now, you’re going to need to get used to some new titles.
So congratulations, Ensigns and Second Lieutenants! Huh!
You know, I really appreciate the warm welcome today, especially for an old West Point guy like me.
And as a former service-academy cadet, it’s a real pleasure to take care of this next piece of important business.
So in keeping with the longstanding tradition: To all midshipmen serving restrictions for minor infractions, you are hereby absolved.
You know, I’ve always wanted to do that.
You know, the U.S. Navy has been doing some pretty amazing things lately.
Pushing the limits with cutting-edge platforms. Schooling the next generation. And confronting new dangers.
And that was just the first half-hour of “Top Gun: Maverick.”
As I look around this stadium, I see some very proud families and loved ones out there.
You’ve been on this journey right alongside your midshipmen—from I-Day to plebe summer to signing those “two for seven” pledges. Your love and encouragement has given them the strength to keep going.
So graduates, today belongs to your loved ones too. And let’s give them a third round of applause.
Let me offer a special word of thanks to the sponsor families.
They open up their homes to exhausted mids—offering hot meals, and laundry, and a place to crash that isn’t “Mother B.”
So thanks to all of you for you have done and what you continue to do in support of these great men and women.
And Vice Adm. Buck has also got a graduation of sorts coming up.
Supe, you’ve led this brigade through incredibly challenging times. I want to thank you for your many years of service. And as your retirement beckons, we wish you fair winds and following seas.
Now, graduates: I know that you’re feeling some powerful emotions today.
Pride, gratitude, relief—and maybe a bit of shock.
And if you’re anything like my own academy class back in the day, you may be worrying about what’s next.
And you may wonder whether you’re truly prepared to lead.
Ensigns and Lieutenants, let me be clear: You are ready.
And that’s not just because you’ll have a commission the next time that you walk off the Yard.
It’s because of each and every time that you walked onto the Yard.
You chose to come to this Academy.
And despite challenges that nobody imagined, you chose to keep coming back, and to keep pushing, and to keep growing.
You know, all those choices add up to character.
And all those decisions add up to integrity.
And all those deeds add up to leadership.
And the way that you overcame obstacles at this Academy will show you how to conquer challenges outside of this Academy.
You led the brigade with grace and compassion after the Academy family tragically lost two midshipmen last year.
And I ask that we take a moment to remember Midshipman Taylor Connors and Midshipman Luke Bird.
Some of you have been hit with unexpected challenges.
Maya Weiss learned last year that she was facing a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But last November, she rang the bell at Walter Reed—done with chemo and cancer free.
And Maya, your classmates can’t wait for you to join them in the Fleet later this year.
This class has also led throughout a global pandemic.
COVID-19 disrupted your plebe year. It delayed rituals like climbing Herndon. It separated you from your classmates, as you were just starting to feel like a family.
But you hung in there. You took care of each other. You found ways to adapt, like firing up grills on the Yard for Thanksgiving dinner—or doing squats with jugs of water in your parents’ backyards when sea trials become “e-trials.”
And when it was finally safe to gather again, you reunited with your classmates. And you made good use of that weekday liberty at O’Brien’s.
Now, the Naval Academy’s new Midshipman Ethos records the core values that you’ve sworn to live by.
You seek wisdom. You practice discipline. You treat others with dignity and respect.
And you will defend our democracy with honor, courage, and commitment.
You know, those values aren’t just words that you recite. Those values are who you are.
And that’s how I know that you are ready for the challenges ahead.
As one of your predecessors once said, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.”
That was President Jimmy Carter, Class of 1947.
And I’m proud that one of this school’s most distinguished alumni—a man of deep faith and a champion of human rights—is now honored on the Yard with the naming of Carter Hall.
Graduates, over the years, I’ve learned that leadership is not just what you do.
It’s who you are.
And over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some outstanding graduates of this academy.
People like Carlos Del Toro, who came to America, as you heard this morning, as a refugee from Cuba—and went on to command a destroyer and serve as your 78th Secretary of the Navy.
And his American journey reminds us how much is possible in this exceptional country.
I’m also thinking of Michelle Howard, the Navy’s first female four-star and the first African-American woman to command a combatant ship.
After she retired, Admiral Howard led the important commission to rename military assets after great American patriots who represent the very best of our history.
And her career is an inspiration to anyone facing a tough task.
“Some days,” she says, “you’ve just got to get your warrior on—and take that first step.”
I’m also thinking of my junior military assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Armas, Class of 2001.
Now, this outstanding Marine is with me every day, morning until night.
And every morning, when Colonel Armas briefs me on my schedule, he realizes that all those “chow calls” were actually good for something.
And finally, I’m thinking of my former boss, Adm. Mike Mullen, who was the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He taught me some of the most important lessons of my career.
And the first one was: don’t ever work for a Naval Academy graduate when Navy Football is in the middle of a 14-year winning streak.
Adm. Mullen also taught me that a leader’s single most important job is to build and empower a great team. To encourage debate and diversity of views. And to take care of all of your people.
And if it hadn’t been for Adm. Mike Mullen, I probably wouldn’t be here with you today.
You know, naval officers have a special understanding of the power of teamwork.
To keep a ship afloat or a submarine diving, the crew has to work together as one team—from the captain to the cooks.
And that’s the spirit that makes American seapower so formidable.
And we need that spirit for the crucial mission that you’re all here to shoulder.
America’s seapower lets us sail, and fly, and operate alongside our unrivaled network of allies and partners, from the South China Sea, to the Gulf of Aden, to the Caribbean.
It lets us project power around the world.
And it helps us secure the sea lanes for the free movement of people, and goods, and ideas.
Today, our Marines are showing the power of teamwork as they train alongside our allies in Japan and the Philippines to strengthen deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.
Our Navy is driving forward our historic AUKUS partnership with Australia and the U.K., bringing together three great democracies to keep the Indo-Pacific free, and open, and prosperous.
In Europe, our Sailors are operating shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO allies. And the Navy has helped expand Ukraine’s maritime capabilities as Ukraine fights against Russia’s cruel and reckless war of choice.
So around the world, the Navy and the Marine Corps bring relief to disaster zones, they counter piracy and drug trafficking, and they defend the freedom of the seas, skies, and space.
And that’s what American seapower lets us do.
Ensigns and Second Lieutenants: that is your mission.
And your leadership will be at the very heart of America’s work to forge a more open and more peaceful 21st century.
You know, our competitors openly challenge that vision. They want to replace the hard-won postwar system of rules and rights with a lawless world of autocracy and aggression.
But the American flag atop a U.S. Navy ship has long been the symbol of hope for a more free and secure world.
So graduates, you will deploy forward. You will travel the globe to defend our democracy. And you will learn that the lifeblood of the rules-based international order is actually seawater.
That’s a big job.
But you’re up to it.
You know, exactly 30 years ago today, the Class of 1983  heard from a wise and scrappy member of the Naval Academy’s Class of 1958.
Senator John McCain held true to his values under impossible circumstances.
And to the graduates sitting where you are, he said, “You have been taught much of what is necessary to lead other men and women in war and peace. You will learn much more from your approaching experiences. As Ensigns and Second Lieutenants, the character of the young Sailors and Marines entrusted to your care will be formed in large part by their appreciation of your character.”
And then Senator McCain added, “You are where leadership begins.”
Ladies and gentlemen, look around you.
This stadium reminds us of the great battles in which those who came before you fought to defend democracy. Belleau Wood. Guadalcanal. Iwo Jima. Inchon.
But what you don’t see here is all the battles that never occurred, all the wars that never erupted—because American Sailors and Marines showed up.
They deterred conflict. They kept the watch. And they reminded the world of what America stands for.
As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”
Class of 2023: wherever your career takes you, remind the world of what you stand for—and what America stands for.
Honor. Courage. And commitment.
Democracy. Liberty. And the rule of law.
The lessons of this academy will always steer you true.
And when the fog rolls in, let the values that you have learned here be your lighthouse.
Because your commanders will call on you.
Your teammates will look to you.
And your country will count on you.
And I know that you are ready.
Because you are where leadership begins.
Class of 2023: I am absolutely honored to call you my teammates and shipmates.
And we will all be cheering you on as you make our country stronger, and our democracy deeper, and our world safer.
May God bless you. May God bless your families. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.