SPEECH | July 3, 2019

On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theatres - Episode 10

LT DIXON:  Welcome to the 10th episode of "On The Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters."  In this episode, we will discuss Memorial Day, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Formidable Shield and BALTOPS.

 

LT DIXON: Good to see you again, Admiral. It's been a long time. And I appreciate Captain Perkins covering for me while I was on leave.

 

ADM FOGGO:  It's good to have you back, Lieutenant Dixon.  And I think Captain Perkins did a pretty good job.  I think we'll keep him around for a while.

 

LT DIXON: Yes, Sir. Sir, it's hard to imagine this is our 10th episode with 10,000 listeners and hundreds of articles based off this podcast. That said, Sir, I want to get right into it and start off with Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

 

Now, sir, with Memorial Day, can you tell us about the commemoration you attended in Cambridge?

 

ADM FOGGO:  I sure can. This Memorial Day, I was honored to attend a commemoration ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial.

 

During the commemoration ceremony, we remembered 3,811 U.S. service members who found their final resting place in Cambridge, and on the wall of this facility there are 5,127 other names of the missing.

 

So, I encouraged those in attendance to take a moment to remember those that have gone before us and have given the ultimate sacrifice, to remember our brothers and sisters in arms who stood the watch and went bravely into battle in the service of freedom and peace.

 

They fought and they stood for the same values we stand for today: individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

 

So along with paying homage to those brave young men and women that are buried there, I enjoyed meeting the World War II veterans, their families.

It's important to remember they fought to restore peace during the Second World War, but it's also important to listen and learn from these veterans who we are very fortunate to have with us still today.

 

LT DIXON:  Following Memorial Day, you traveled to Normandy, France to participate in some of the events commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the beach landings commonly known as D-Day. What can you tell us about these events?

 

ADM FOGGO:  Yeah, Lieutenant Dixon, it was a real privilege to be part of the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

 

Just like we did in Cambridge, we gathered to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we'd have the opportunity to live in a peaceful and secure world. We also honored those who survived, and I met many survivors while I was up in Normandy. They had incredible stories.

 

Before the Lone Sailor Dedication, I was able to attend a couple of different events. One of them was the commemorative service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Bayeux, in Normandy.

 

There were about 165 vets from Operation Overlord who arrived at various times along the beach 75 years ago. So, if you think about that, these gentlemen and some ladies were 94, 95 and 96 years old. It was amazing to see them there at the ceremony all together.

 

And while at the commemoration, we heard the story of a Royal Navy sailor, he’s now 95 years old on one of the landing craft units, a U.S. unit. He talked about driving into the beach in the first wave, and of the 33 men on board that craft that he delivered, 30 were killed in the first few minutes of battle.

 

To hear that story and read about other experiences and to meet these brave young men and women was an experience I'll never forget. I got a chance to shake some of their hands and just say, "Thank you." 

 

And later that day, I was able to team up with a fellow Naval Academy classmate, Rear Admiral Frank Thorp, who is the president and CEO of the U.S. Navy Memorial, to dedicate the start of a Loan Sailor statue project at Utah Beach on June 6th. I couldn't think of a better place to put this statue than on Utah Beach in Normandy, where it all began.

 

The newest location was chosen to honor the frogmen of the Naval Combat Demolition Units and all of the men and women in the United States Navy that heroically served in Normandy and throughout the European campaign.

 

In the predawn hours of 6 June 1944, the frogmen were part of the first American contingent to set foot on the shores of France in Operation Neptune.

 

The frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the waves of Allied forces coming in. There were many obstacles, anti-ship barriers and things that would preclude an amphibious landing of the Army divisions.

 

So as part of the dedication, we listened to a descendent of the frogmen, my new fleet master chief, Wally Walters. Fleet Walters is really the first special operator to hold a position as the senior enlisted community leader fleet master chief. He helo-in on the previous day from 6,500 feet during a reenactment of the parachute assault on the north of France.

 

HALO, for our listeners, is a high-altitude, low-opening parachute jump. So, he popped out of the airplane with some of his SEAL teammates at 6,500 feet, and they pulled their chutes as they got close to the ground, and then landed safely and reenacted the arrival of those brave paratroopers.

 

The following day, on June 7th, Fleet Walters joined the United States Navy SEALS assigned to Special Warfare Unit Two to participate in a reenactment that emulated the journey the frogmen took on the early morning hours of 6 June.

 

They came ashore in, you know, the raiding craft and actually picked their craft up and then assaulted obstacles. There was a tank obstacle that had been constructed on a beach just like it was in the 6th of June, and these guys actually put detcord up there and for the crowd, they blew it up.

 

You know, victory in Europe would not have been possible without the sacrifice of those sailors, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guard at Utah Beach 75 years ago. They gave their full measure of devotion to do their job and succeed in clearing a path for the landing force to make it to the beach.

 

So that's the point of having a Lone Sailor statute that looks out at sea as we remember those men and women that came ashore.

 

LT DIXON:  Incredible, Admiral. I appreciate you sharing all that with us. Now, Sir, in past episodes we've talked about your connection to World War II, but so does someone else that traveled from Naples, Italy to Normandy, France. What can you tell us about this encounter?

 

ADM FOGGO:  Yeah, Lieutenant Dixon. Thanks. Like many of the people who attended the various D-Day events, they've got some personal connections to the Second World War, my dad was in the Canadian Forces in World War II and his father had served in Canadian Forces with the Commonwealth in World War I.

 

So, my dad landed in Normandy after D-Day. He got there about 44 days later in July of 1944, and then he proceeded across France and Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany until the Canadian Forces demobilized on Victory Europe Day, 8 May, 1945. And right here in my office I've got his war map of the 4th Canadian Armor Division that tracks that journey.

 

To answer the second part of your question, it's kind of special, my command senior enlisted leader, my command sergeant major here at NATO headquarters is Sergeant Major Juergen Stark.

 

He's a German soldier, and an exceptional one. He's the grandson of a German soldier who survived World War II. And the two of us stood on that beach in Normandy, shoulder to shoulder as allies and friends and part of the command team of Joint Force Command Naples, when just a generation ago our forefathers were fighting against one another.

 

Also, 75 years later, we have several friends that were actually part of the combatants and the adversaries during that war. Germany is now a member of NATO and one of our close allies; as is Italy, who is our host nation and where we're broadcasting today.

 

We've got service members stationed all over the country of Italy and throughout Germany. So, I think that's pretty special.

 

And over the course of history, one of NATO's major achievements has been to unite former adversaries in a defensive alliance which we have made today formidable and which causes our adversaries pause and prevents war and deters war.

 

And that's what it's all about. Command Sergeant Major Stark and my relationship with him is just a perfect example of that.

 

LT DIXON:  And, Admiral, before the next topic, you were present for the announcement of the naming of one of our newest DDGs while on board the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, in Cherbourg, France.

 

What can you tell us about this experience? And why will the next U.S. Navy DDG be named after a Coast Guard veteran?

 

ADM FOGGO:  Well, Bobby, I attended a reception on board the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle.  Actually, it’s the tall ship – Eagle, is their training baroque.

 

And at sea services, we remember those who pay the ultimate sacrifice. And there's no better way to remember another part of our sea services than naming a brand new Arleigh Burke-class DDG after a hero and a veteran of the United States Coast Guard in World War II.

 

So, during the reception on board the Eagle, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz jointly announced that the Navy's next newest warship will be DDG 132, named in honor of Captain Quentin R. Walsh, United States Coast Guard.

 

I was there because at one time Captain Walsh served as the Coast Guard liaison officer on the staff of the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and that's one of my commands today.

 

In 1944, Captain Walsh helped create plans to seize the strategic port of Cherbourg, which is on the northern edge of Normandy's Cotentin Peninsula. And this was part of the planning process for Operation Overlord. We needed to be able to control that deep-water port. It was vital to expedite the shipment of cargo for supply and support of Allied armies who came to the beach that day in Normandy on D-Day.

 

So, as Captain Walsh, he was a commander then it was his plan for the formation of a specially trained naval reconnaissance unit to determine the condition of the port and to facilitate its capture. 

 

He volunteered to lead this special mission, and after arriving on Utah Beach in June 9th, 1944, he was off.

 

For all our efforts, the Navy credited Walsh's team with taking about 750 German prisoners, it's amazing, and liberating 52 captured American paratroopers.

 

So that determination was instrumental in the surrender of the last inner fortress of the German arsenal in Cherbourg, allowed us to take the port. For that achievement, the Navy awarded Walsh the Navy Cross for his actions; that's the second highest medal for valor in combat.

 

His leadership in securing Cherbourg had a profound effect on the success of the resupply of Allied operations along the Normandy coast, facilitated the success of Operation Overlord. And I'm really excited that Captain Walsh's legacy will live on for many, many years on the USS Quentin R. Walsh.

 

And so to end this segment, Bobby, I think it's fitting to quote what the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Schultz, said at this reception: "The future USS Quentin R. Walsh will carry Captain Walsh's legacy of strength and service throughout the world for decades to come, and this ship will remind friends and adversaries alike of the proud history of our services and the skill and professionalism of all those who stand the watch today," end quote.

 

I couldn't say it any better than that.

 

LT DIXON:  Sir, we talked about Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of D-Day. During these events, we recognize the sacrifice of those who came before us.

 

As the NATO alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, I wanted to ask about some key events that are moving the alliance forward. One of those was Formidable Shield. What can you tell us about this fairly new exercise?

 

ADM FOGGO:  Well, let me start with why the exercise is important and work backwards from there, and why the U.S. Navy's involved in this exercise. And, it's quite simple.

 

The Integrated Air and Missile Defense network provides an umbrella of protection over Europe from the threat of ballistic missiles.  And there's no doubt that we face increasingly challenging missile threats, whether it be ballistic, air, surfaced or sub-launched missiles, threats that can only be stopped by enhancing our interoperability amongst allies and partners.

 

For the third time, we showed that we can, I like to say, hit a bullet with a bullet at Mach speed miles above the surface of the Earth with the SM-3 interceptor.

 

We demonstrated our ability not only to deal with ballistic missile threats, but also learning how to deal with the proliferation of anti-ship missile threats, which we know are not just getting larger in volume, but are becoming really more complex.

 

Having a strong ballistic missile defense changes the adversaries' calculus.  If they know that their weapons won't reach the target area, they're less likely to take the shot.  Simple as that.

 

So, Exercise Formidable Shield, led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and on behalf of U.S. Sixth Fleet Vice Admiral Franchetti and Commodore Shanti Sethi, included 13 ships, 10 aircraft, about 3,300 personnel representing nine countries, and all taking place on the Hebrides Range off the coast of Scotland.

 

The first exercise was in 2015, and it was significant, because it was the first time we'd ever done an exo-atmospheric intercept of a ballistic missile in the European theater.

 

Now, that was a big deal, and it remains so today, because as we see the proliferation of longer-range and more lethal weapon systems, we have to be ready for that.

 

The exercise's difficulty and complexity grew in 2017, with probably a very, very long shot. It was a long shot of the SM-3 at that time.

 

And in 2019, we executed our most sophisticated, dynamic and integrated exercise yet. I'll just give you a couple highlights.

 

It was the first engagement of a supersonic target by an ASTER 15 air defense missile, which was launched from the French frigate Britannia.

 

The Royal Canadian Navy actually engaged a supersonic target with an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

 

USS Roosevelt, our ship, did the first simultaneous defense using a Standard Missile-2 and an SM-3 interceptor against ballistic missiles for both low and high-altitude targets in Europe.

 

The nations, all of them, conducted more than 12 successful live fire engagements against subsonic, supersonic and ballistic missiles using NATO's Coordinated Command and Control Structure.  That's really important.

 

So, we're bringing the allies in, and we're integrated them into integrated air and missile defense.

 

It's not just about testing the weapon systems or the missile, which we know is the best interceptor in the world, but developing the warfighters, you know, training the team. We've got a whole generation of warriors now who are very capable in conducting ballistic missile defense in this theater, and, you know, that seed corn will be spread throughout the world as they move on and go to other ships and other headquarters.

 

So bottom line, Bobby, is that the exercise showed that this stuff really works, and if a missile is heading inbound to Europe, it's going to be knocked out of the sky.

 

LT DIXON:  And, Admiral, for our last segment, I would like to discuss BALTOPS, or Exercise Baltic Operations, a major exercise conducted each year with our NATO allies and partners. This year marks the 47th iteration of this exercise, an exercise that you commanded back in 2015 and 2016 as the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.

 

I would like to get your perspective on the importance of BALTOPS exercise series to the region, and then let's, if we can, drill down into this year's exercise.

 

ADM FOGGO:  Ok, Lieutenant Dixon, just as you said, we just completed BALTOPS, which is one of my favorite exercises that we do in this theater. I was involved as 6th Fleet commander, Strike Force NATO commander in 2015 and '16.

 

This year was unique in that BALTOPS it was the first time the 2nd Fleet staff had practiced working here in the European Command area of responsibility. And it's remarkable for a command, that is, 2nd Fleet, just under a year from its establishment, to have led a major multinational maritime exercise.

 

And I was really pleased to have Admiral Lewis and his team come over here to the European theater.

 

So, you might ask, "What is 2nd Fleet?" Well, 2nd Fleet was re-established by the chief of naval operations and the secretary of the Navy as the Navy's response to a dynamic and changing security environment.

 

It's interesting that during BALTOPS this year, the Russians sent three ships to observe the exercise. I say "interesting," because Russia used to participate in the exercise, but that was before their illegal annexation of the Crimea.

 

Now, much of the exercise for BALTOPS 2019 took place off the coast of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, our three Baltic partners in the Baltic Sea.

 

At the operational level, the exercise allowed participating maritime forces the opportunity to work together and train together and standardize processes and procedures.

 

At the strategic level, this highlights the importance of the Baltic region and the critical role maritime forces play in the overall security and stability of the region and Europe.

 

LT DIXON:  Admiral, as always, thank you for your time.

 

I'll be heading out to Ukraine to be a public affairs officer for Exercise Sea Breeze and I look forward to discussing the exercise with you next time we meet.

 

ADM FOGGO:  Hey, best of luck to you, Bobby, and your team, participating in Exercise Sea Breeze. I'm excited about that. It's a crucial exercise that we co-host with Ukraine. And as you know, we'll have a total of 19 countries participating in the Black Sea.

 

So I look forward to hearing your full report next time.

 

LT DIXON:  Thank you, sir. If I don't see you again, sir, before the Fourth of July, I want to wish you and your family a happy Independence Day.

 

ADM FOGGO:  Hey, happy Independence Day to you as well, and all of our listeners. I hope that all of our service members and their families in Europe and Africa have a safe and fun-filled weekend celebrating America's independence.

 

And I'd like to say thanks to all of you service members who are standing the watch over the Fourth of July weekend. We couldn't do it without you.

 

LT DIXON:  And, sir, thank you for sharing your thoughts and telling us all about what the U.S. Navy is doing in and around Europe and Africa.

 

ADM FOGGO:  Thanks, Bobby.

 

LT DIXON: We hope you have enjoyed this episode of “On the Horizon Navigating European and African Theaters.” Please share the podcast with your friends and family and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Join us next time to hear what the U.S. Navy is during throughout Europe and Africa. Until Next time, thank you.