Dr. Carmela Pagano, Ms. Mary Ellen Countryman, Lt. Gen. Vittorio Tomasone, fellow flag officers, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. What a great way to start the (sunny/rainy) month of March: in the Gulf of Naples aboard my favorite ship in the Navy. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the tremendous success of our team of teams, recognize the leadership of Vice Adm. and Mrs. Grady, and welcome aboard Vice Adm. Franchetti, her husband Jim and daughter Isabelle. It’s my duty, honor, and privilege to officiate the change of command for U.S. SIXTH Fleet and, for the Supreme Allied Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.
U.S. SIXTH Fleet was officially designated in 1950, but the legacy of a U.S. naval officer in command of multinational forces in the Mediterranean is almost as old as our nation itself. At the dawn of the 19th Century, Barbary corsairs were seizing cargo and sailors from American and European ships. Pirates were demanding ransom and tribute. All diplomatic efforts failed: Tripoli declared war on the United States. In response, Congress authorized the construction of cruisers, brigs, schooners and gunboats to augment the six frigates of the new navy—the Navy the Nation Needed for economic survival. President Jefferson dispatched a Mediterranean squadron. In 1804, with Commodore Edward Preble in Command, the Mediterranean Squadron brought naval diplomacy to the shores of Tripoli.
He ordered a close blockade, prosecuted enemy vessels, and sent Lt. Stephen Decatur on a daring raid—praised by Lord Adm. Nelson as “the most daring act of the age.” Despite tactical successes, Commodore Preble still couldn’t bring the war with Tripoli to a close.
Shared interest in a free and prosperous Mediterranean inspired King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies in Naples to loan Commodore Preble 6 gunboats, 2 bomb ketches, and 96 competent mariners. Stronger together! [Pause] It happened right here, long before the birth of NATO. Credible naval power guarantees safe and predictable passage and commerce for ALL peaceful nations. It’s a charter tenet of the alliance and it’s what continues to shape the vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
In times of triumph or turbulence, rough seas or calm, SIXTH Fleet is operating throughout the region protecting our homeland from attack, safeguarding our economic prosperity by ensuring common domains remain open, preserving our global influence, and advancing our interests to include defending our allies from military aggression. Delivering lethality at the speed of operations and dynamic force employment, we will continue to defeat Violent Extremist Organizations who threaten us and our allies, and deter Russian aggression in this theater.
Thanks to the leadership and stewardship of Vice Admiral Grady, SIXTH Fleet and STRIKEFORNATO are engaged, postured, and ready with credible forces to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex security environment.
Like the Commodore Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron of two centuries ago, U.S. SIXTH Fleet works with allies and partners to keep seas safe and allow maritime trade to flourish. Every day, and every way, our allies and partners join us in defending freedom, deterring war, and maintaining the rules which underwrite a free and open international order.
Throughout history, SIXTH Fleet has led the way, integrating Allies and executing naval operations unlike anything ever done before. Adm. Robert Carney, the first Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH) Commander, commanded Exercise LONGSTEP in 1952, in which two U.S. carriers operated in the Eastern Mediterranean with five allies, operationalizing shared interests, united under the NATO flag.
Vice Adm. Grady continued that legacy. Under his command, interoperability with allies and partners has expanded and strengthened. French aircraft carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE and USS EISENHOWER operated together in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, launching sorties into combat against terrorists in Syria.
Keeping his Cutlass Sharp, Grady took exercise FORMIDABLE SHIELD to new heights—literally and figuratively. In 2017, allied warships prosecuted both air and ballistic missile defense in live fire events in the largest European maritime missile exercise EVER. I’d say the Alliance is “Fit to Fight.”
In the 490 days he’s been at the helm, Vice Adm. Grady planned and executed Operation Inherent Resolve Strikes from TRUMAN, IKE, and BUSH; neutralized violent extremists of Sirte, Libya; launched 59 TLAM missiles against the Assad Regime for use of chemical weapons in Syria, providing immediate and credible options to the Commander in Chief; and certified our Maritime Operations Center—by the way, it was evaluated as the “best in the Navy.”
It should come to no one’s surprise that Chris Grady is a fifth generation U.S. Navy Sailor. He has commanded at all levels, from USS CHIEF (MCM 14) and USS COLE (DDG 67), to Carrier Strike Group 1 and Naval Surface Force Atlantic. I can’t sing his praises more than to say that he is a formidable operator, dedicated leader, and consummate professional.
Last week Vice Adm. Grady said: “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing. By nature, ships are flexible, mobile forces, and the Navy is uniquely capable of providing credible and capable forces to defend our nation’s interests throughout the world.” This is a powerful message to ALL audiences. It’s the truth, and Vice Adm. Grady communicates it. I look forward to continuing to work with Adm. Grady as the newly announced Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Congratulations, Chris!
At his side, and leading in her own right, is Mrs. Christine Grady. As senior advisor to the Naples Overseas Spouses Club, the NOSC, she led the way to return the club to its roots as a charity and social and support club for families.
She worked with the Navy/Marine Corp Relief Society to re-open the Support Site Thrift Shop and she is a leading advocate for the Navy Hospital. Christine, please accept the heartfelt appreciation of the entire Naples Community for a job well done. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Navy spouse, second to none! Let’s give Christine a big round of applause, please.
On January 19th, a month and a half ago, Secretary Mattis published the National Defense Strategy. Its premise is that we confront challenges head-on to compete, deter, and win. The National Defense Strategy outlines three lines of effort: 1) Build a more lethal force, 2) Strengthen alliances and attract new partners, and 3) Reform the DoD.
This year the Joint Force is on track to execute greater than a $700 Billion budget. The Navy’s share is $197 billion. So what sort of Navy do we buy to increase Naval Power? The CNO has identified six pillars, “6 specific dimensions to achieve needed wholeness.” The first five pillars: bigger, better, networked, talented, and agile, contribute to potential naval power. The sixth pillar, readiness, enables actual naval power. With six pillars, U.S. SIXTH Fleet will help build the Navy the Nation Needs.
Vice Adm. Franchetti, Lisa, you’re the perfect choice at the perfect time to lead Sixth Fleet. You’ve served with distinction as a destroyer captain—the USS ROSS—soon to be under your command again as an FDNF strike platform; as a CSG Commander; as the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea; and as the J-5 on the Joint Staff. I know you’re bringing your expertise and experience and I look forward to your continued success and the success of SIXTH Fleet! We will depend on you, Lisa, to keep SIXTH Fleet ready! You will be at the front lines in strengthening our competitive advantage. The Navy and the Nation are counting on you.
From the middle of the Atlantic to the Horn of Africa, and from the Arctic to South of Africa, your geographical responsibility is grand. And in its center is where we are today. This same Mediterranean fostered the development of Western civilization, and, at times, served as an ancient “thunderdome” of naval warfare. Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote in 1890, “Circumstances have caused the Mediterranean Sea to play a greater part in the history of the world, both in a commercial and a military point of view, than any other sheet of water of the same size.” As during the Barbary Wars at the dawn of the 19th Century, U.S. naval presence in Europe and Africa is foundational to the security strategy of the United States and her allies.
U.S. SIXTH Fleet works with partners and Allies to maintain freedom of navigation in the Mediterranean and throughout the region for a peaceful, connected, and prosperous world.
From Vice Adm. Grady to Vice Adm. Franchetti, I have no doubt U.S. SIXTH Fleet and STRIKEFORNATO will continue to safeguard the United States and the alliance, 24/7 and around the compass 360 degrees.