The U.S. Navy on Thursday will celebrate its 247th birthday, and organizations such as the Navy League will be helping many of us celebrate the day.
Unfortunately, all too often, it seems like there’s nothing but bad news out there, making this a good time to reflect on the good news—and there’s quite a bit of it.
In response to Russia’s buildup for its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden dispatched the Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier group to the region. It would remain in the eastern Mediterranean until late August, when it was relieved by the George H.W. Bush.
The Truman’s ability to quickly reposition and sustain operations in the eastern Mediterranean again demonstrated the responsiveness of the fleet and its sailors.
And twice this year, strike groups based first around the carrier Abraham Lincoln and then the Ronald Reagan were able to promptly sortie into the Sea of Japan, responding to North Korean provocations. The first was in April—the first time a carrier strike group had been to those waters in five years. Then it was repeated this month, when the Japan-based Reagan returned.
So much for the notion that carriers are obsolete.
Importantly, the Navy has maintained a near-constant and elevated presence in the Western Pacific throughout historically high and sustained Chinese military operations.
The high point of tensions occurred following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taipei. All the while, nearby the Navy maintained two carrier strike groups and two amphibious groups sending the clear message that while the U.S. sought a peaceful Asia, we were determined to protect American interests should they be challenged. Bottom line: Things stayed contained and nonviolent.
Then there was the seemingly bad news when Iran seized a couple of the Navy’s unmanned sail-drones in the Red Sea. To the contrary, the Navy has been learning by doing with these novel platforms and in close proximity to hostile forces.
In this case, the Navy had anticipated this possibility and was on scene quickly and in force, prompting the Iranian navy to return the drones within hours and continue with the mission. These actions were well-executed and demonstrated the need to ensure those lessons are built into future platforms and operational planning.
Additionally, two first-in-class warships began their maiden deployments. The Zumwalt destroyer arrived in Japan on Sept. 26, and the much-maligned aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford departed Oct. 5 on its first deployment. While overdue, these milestones are significant and will further help the Navy refine future carrier operations and perfect the maintenance of the perhaps too many novel onboard systems.
Getting to this point is a testament to the years of hard work and dedication of countless sailors and shipyard workers.
Lastly, amid much bad news regarding recruitment into the military, the Navy managed to meet its enlistment goals for young recruits for fiscal year 2022. While this is good news, future years will need extra effort to be successful against what looks like headwinds against recruitment and retention efforts—all critical for fielding proficient crews.
As Americans, we have much to be proud of in the U.S. Navy: tireless dedication and commitment to protecting national interests, safeguarding our citizens, and supporting our allies around the world.
To keep the Navy strong requires vigilance and constant self-reflection—or as the chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, calls it: “Get Real, Get Better.”
Happy 247th birthday to the U.S. Navy.
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