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LT DIXON: Welcome to the 12th episode of On The Horizon: Navigating the European-African Theaters. In this episode, we will discuss Admiral Foggo's recent trip to Paris, his time with the Chiefs of Defense from the Baltic countries, and once again we will welcome back Fleet Master Chief Walters, who joins us to discuss the recent navy chief pinning ceremony here in Naples, Italy.
Admiral, it's great to have you back here as we start our 12th episode. And would you believe it? It has only been one year, and yet this podcast has reached over 12,000 listeners.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, thanks, Lieutenant Dixon, that's impressive. And it's great to record another episode. I think it's really incredible we have so many listeners and that the individuals are interested in what the Navy's doing in Europe and Africa.
Big thanks to everybody out there that's taking the time to learn about what your United States Navy and Marines Corps are doing here in the theater.
LT DIXON: And, sir, to start off our episode, I'd like to talk about your recent trip to France. What can you tell us about your trip?
ADM FOGGO: Well, first of all, it was an excellent visit.
I went to Paris to meet with French military leadership primarily. I had some great discussions and I'll tell you about those in a couple of minutes. But the other thing I did was to participate in the First Alliance Foundation Colloquium.
So, it was a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, highlighting our relationship between our two countries, and discussing the challenges and opportunities that await the alliance, France and the United States, and the NATO alliance in the future.
And interestingly enough, this corresponded with the commemoration and the memory of the events that took place on 9/11 in America.
LT DIXON: Well, sir, it sounds like Paris is a wonderful city and I hope to one day visit there myself. Was this your first time visiting?
ADM FOGGO: No, it was not. Paris is a wonderful city. I've been there many times before. As you know, I'm a francophone and a Francophile, which means that, you know, I'm interested in France, I'm interested in culture, I'm interested in history but I've also lived there.
I studied in France many years ago as a lieutenant in the United States Navy in the Joint Force Sanction Program called the George H. Olmsted Scholar Program.
And I've been around doing this for about 38 years, so I happen to be at the University of Strasbourg in France studying in 1987 to 1989.
The interesting thing about Strasbourg is it's the heart of the European Economic Community, so I not only learned about France, their culture, their history, their politics, but I learned about the European Union at very early stages of its developments.
And I went to see three particular naval officers there who have long been friends, and that's Admiral Bernard Rogel, he was CNO, Chief of Defense, is now the special assistant to President Macron, is his national security advisor and still on active duty.
I met with the vice Chief of Defense, the vice CHOD, Admiral Jean Carabianca, a very strategic thinking man; and the head of the French Navy, and we have met many times and worked together, Admiral Christophe Prazuck.
The common theme between all three of these leaders was that this is the strongest the Franco-American alliance has ever been, and they really look forward to working in the future with the United States Navy.
Also, I had the opportunity to meet our U.S. ambassador to France, Jamie McCourt. The ambassador is an amazing person. She's highly educated: juris doctor degree, Sloan School of Management at MIT. She has incredible diplomatic skills and I think we're fortunate to have her represent our interests in France.
She's also a great supporter of the military. And besides that, she and my old boss, Admiral Mike Mullen, are big L.A. Dodgers fans and, frankly, so am I.
LT DIXON: And, sir, during your trip you also spoke at the First Alliance Foundation's Colloquium. Can you tell us a little about the place where the event happened and what was your message at the conference?
ADM FOGGO: So, it was held at a very historic place, the Musee de l'Armee and the Hotel National des Invalides. Now, that's the French army museum and the home of the veterans.
There are about 90 veterans living there now under care of the French government. I met some of them at the mutual band concert we did with our band and the French air force band. It was fantastic. And a couple of those guys actually stormed a beach in Normandy with Free French forces on the 6th of June, 1944.
So it was a wonderful place to hold an incredible event. And I'll highlight a couple of comments for you.
First of all, the things that I underscored were, you know, naval strength, naval power is fundamental to maritime security and it's critical for regional and economic stability in Europe, and throughout the globe, for that matter.
We face a complex series of challenges and relationships nowadays, including Russia's increasingly aggressive behavior, not just in Europe, but Eastern Mediterranean, civil war in Syria, there is, separate from the Russians, illicit maritime activity around the entire continent of Africa, there is terrorism on the continent of Africa.
And it requires us to work together as a team, allies and partners in a joint force, a purple force, with our NATO partners and allies to combat these threats to Western civilization.
Most recently we did Formidable Shield 2019. That's a shot of one of our SM-3 missile interceptors; best in the world. We invite the allies to come and play, and the French sent their two French frigates, Bretagne and Aquitaine, and they participated this year.
Bretagne fired an Aster-15 air defense missile against a supersonic target and that was significant.
We had 12 countries in all in Formidable Shield '19 and I think it was a huge success.
The French have also contributed to the global war on terror. So they're in places like Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, and they're doing a great job down in Mali.
You know, France was one of the first countries to offer condolences after the events of September 11th, 2001, 9/11. And, likewise, when terrorism struck Paris on November 13th, 2015, we Americans were one of the first to respond as well. And I talked about that when I was in the First Alliance Colloquium in Paris.
And in April 2017, and we've talked about this on this podcast before, France, the United Kingdom and the United States joined forces to respond to Assad regime's use of chemical weapons against his own people.
So it was kind of a seamless display of international partnership and a coalition. So I was very happy to be associated with that, and send the right message to those who would use chemical weapons against civilian targets.
Now, separate from that, if you want to go back in history, our relationship with France began with Admiral Comte de Grasse over the British fleet in 1781. He helped the United States gain its independence 240 years ago. It was a monumental victory and the French and U.S. navies that built upon that spirit or espirit de corps, ever since.
So we fought together, we've experienced losses together, we have mourned together and we have celebrated freedom together. So for that reason, Lieutenant Dixon, I think the commitment to each other's collective defense and the desire to deter aggression and preserve peace in a highly professional and well-trained manner is inherent in our interoperable navies today, just as it was 240 years ago.
LT DIXON: Wow, sir. Sounds like an incredible trip and a wonderful speaking event. For our listeners, if you would like to watch the admiral's remarks, visit our website at www.c6f.navy.mil, and click "press room," and then "transcripts" to hear more about the trip.
And, Admiral, for our next segment, you recently hosted Chiefs of Defense from the Baltic region in Naples. Can you tell us why this was important for you to meet with them?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah I can, Lieutenant Dixon. And that's an important body of water in the Baltic. Of course, we operate in the Arctic, the North Atlantic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and all the waters around Africa. So it's a pretty big area of responsibility.
So, for that reason, I invited top military leaders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to my headquarters in Naples to discuss security matters facing the region. The topic was really maritime security, the maritime domain and stability operations in the maritime environment.
So we've done a lot in the Baltic and it's a critical artery of commerce. So there's about 15 percent of the world's cargo traffic, transiting in that region every year. So it's important that we keep it open.
And the Baltic countries make a very important contribution to the alliance overall. They participate not only in their own defense, but in out-of-area operations for the Baltic, and they're very dependable. So it was a wonderful visit, and I think we all learned some great lessons.
LT DIXON: And, sir, what is your assessment of the security environment in the Baltics?
ADM FOGGO: Well, like I said, 15 percent of the world's traffic passes through there in any given year. So things are flowing out. But, you know, I remain concerned about Russian military activity that's increased in the region. They have more ships, more aircrafts, more intercepts in the air.
And they've built up an incredible capacity of military hardware: missiles, anti-access area denial programs, and what we call the Kaliningrad Oblast, which is a little parcel of land that is Russian territory, right there on the Baltic coast.
Every year, Allied aircraft take to the skies, hundreds of times, and we're intercepted by Russian military aircraft along the coast of the Baltic nations. We do air policing up there for that reason.
Sometimes, Russia has displayed a disregard for its sovereign neighbors' territory and maritime international law.
For example, they invaded Georgia, they illegally annexed Crimea in the Ukraine, and they have tried to claim the Sea of Azov as their own background, their own lake. But they share that with Ukraine.
They've stopped and detained cargo ships. And most recently, last December, they seized three Ukrainian naval vessels, took the sailors and put them in prison in Moscow. And on this podcast before, I have talked about how that was a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Happily, those 24 sailors have been released as a result of discussions between President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Putin of Russia. So we hope for a better environment and better relationship between those two nations in the near future.
LT DIXON: And thank you sir for that rundown, sir, of the security environment and the necessity of having a strong naval presence in the Baltic Sea and throughout the European Theater. And Sir, What can the U.S. Navy do to help maintain a stable and peaceful region?
ADM FOGGO: Well, one of the ways we help maintain stability and counter aggression from our Russian counterparts, is to do exercises and to do demonstrations. So you have to show them the risk calculus of tangling with NATO.
And one of those exercises that's been around since 1972, it's one of my favorite, it's called BALTOPS, Baltic Operations, and pretty simple.
We just finished the 47th iteration of BALTOPS, and it continues to be an excellent proving ground to bring in allies and partners that are bordering on the Baltic, and others who want to come up and be part of the northern defense of the alliance.
I think this year was one of the biggest. I did it back in '15 and '16, we had about 50 ships and 5,000 personnel. This year, we had 50 ships, 36 aircraft, two submarines and 8,600 personnel from 18 allied and partner nations.
LT DIXON: Admiral, for our last segment, I want to discuss the recent accomplishments of some of our sailors, our newly pinned chief petty officers. What can you tell us about this event and why is it so monumental?
ADM FOGGO: Well, it's significant. I mean the pinning of newly selected chief petty officers is a time-honored tradition in the United States Navy, and I'm incredibly proud of our new chiefs and also our very professional season this year.
And on September 13th across the globe, the U.S. Navy's newest chiefs received their golden anchors, which signifies them as higher level leaders in the United States Navy. It's a significant milestone. That's something to be really proud of.
You know, one of my greatest moments in my Navy career is when I became an honorary chief, and that was on 30 August, 2017. It was a wonderful honor and I wear my chief's anchors underneath my pocket flap, all of the time.
Starting with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, who said it best, quote "Our Navy's achievements throughout our history are due in large measure to the training and mentorship provided by chief petty officers," unquote. So that was a great message.
And, you know, Lieutenant Dixon, for those of our audience who are not familiar with the chiefs initiation month, I'll say that each chief petty officer has something called a charges book, it's like a notebook, and it's a matter of pride to put it on your bookshelf and keep it for the rest of your life and you show it to your friends and family, and it's part of the indoctrination.
And in that charges book, mentors and other chief petty officers write constructive criticism and they write some funny stories, and they have enthusiastic advice and they have anecdotes that take place as, you know, part of their career, and recommendations and guidance and everything else.
It's something that not every chief petty officer will do, but if you can, take a look at that charges book. When I was an honorary Chief, they gave me one, and I had everybody else in the season that year sign it, and I treasure that.
So the CNO sent a letter, which was a charge letter to all of the chiefs, and I'll just summarize it. In it, he said I charge you to think of the chief's mess like an institution, a professional institution. Secondly, the sum of our daily acts, large and small, continue to challenge us and force us to rise to the standards of those who came before us.
And finally, he said those actions will leave our Navy better off. And, you know, he's absolutely right. It's my personal belief that the chiefs have to get out of the mess and really get involved in their sailors lives. I mean, we are busier than we have ever been.
LT DIXON: And Admiral if I may, what drives that? And in this year’s letter to the new chiefs you mention a book called “Legacy” by James Kerr, how do you see that book applying to the 21st century navy chief?
ADM FOGGO: I'm a big fan of literature. And in last year's pinning ceremony here in Naples, and again in the letter that I've provided to this year's new chiefs for their charge book, I discussed a book I really like.
It was on the commandant of the Marine Corps reading list; General Neller told me about it first. And it's by James Kerr, and he goes into the philosophy of the world's most successful sports team. They're called the All-Blacks, and it is the New Zealand rugby team. They've won numerous world championships over time.
So there's a ton of lessons in leadership in that book and it's primarily about, when teams become very, very successful and you become a world champion, sometimes you let your guard down and next season you don't do so well and there's a lot of reasons for that.
We can't afford to do that in the United States Navy, so what I did was pick some of those lessons learned from the author Kerr, and applied it to leadership in the United States Navy and challenges to our chief petty officers.
So in short, these lessons talk about how to continue our competitive edge, you know. There is no second place when it comes to warfighting, and continue the excellent, sustained superior performance of the team on a continuum.
And I won't go over them now, but I recommend that our readers, if you haven't read the book, read the book.
I'll paraphrase one of my favorite quotes from Sir Isaac Newton, and that is, you know, during the newly pinned chief ceremony, that they can see further, because they have stood on the shoulders of giants.
And what I mean by that is that the chiefs, the senior chiefs and the master chiefs who have gone before them and who have turned over the watch have done great things, and now it's their turn, and they've got to improve on the game we have today so that we can fight the game we have tomorrow.
And at the end of each of the charges book, there's some empty pages. And, you know, I always told the chiefs, over to you. That is now your space to fill in the rest of your career. So think about it, write yourself notes, write yourself reminders, write yourself goals and objectives, and don't make them easy; make them stretch goals that are harder and impossible to achieve and you may surprise yourself.
I ended with, be the best you can be, and ask yourself what will your legacy be? And I think that was good advice. Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to comment on what was a really professional chief’s initiation this year.
LT DIXON: Thank you, Admiral. And, Fleet Master Chief Walters, thank you again for joining us to discuss the newest additions to the chief's mess.
FLEET WALTERS: Admiral, Lieutenant Dixon, thank you for having me back and it's great to be here, especially to talk about, you know, the culmination of this year's training season for our new chiefs. As you know, September is the month where we bring everything together and recognize six weeks of hard training that the admiral kind of alluded to, talking about the professionalism and development of our future chiefs.
And I will tell you, this season and this initiation has been nothing but top you know, world class, to be honest with you. I've been truly proud of the chief's mess and their abilities to do what is best, in the best interest of the Navy and our future chiefs.
And so they did a phenomenal job. And in fact, I want to kind of highlight some of those chiefs that went above and beyond, in developing the chiefs this season.
First and foremost, I want to just kind of thank Command Master Chief Hochgraver for all of his hard work and his leadership in this season.
I also want to give a shout-out to Command Master Chief Matt Logsdon, who was the guest speaker for the CPO pinning at the Capo Gymnasium. I thought he did a phenomenal job in sharing a personal experience, and also giving some sage advice to our future chiefs. And I want to thank him for that.
I also want to thank Command Master Chief Johannes Gonzalez, who was the guest speaker for our teammates there in Rota, Spain, at the CPO pinning, as well as the guest speaker for the Khaki Ball for the USS Mount Whitney. And he did a phenomenal job as well.
I also want to say thank you to Terrance Williams, who was the lead for the Khaki Ball. I will tell you, since I've been here, I've had an opportunity to do a lot of great things and do work for a tremendous boss, so thank you, sir, but jumping into Normandy for the 75th anniversary, it was pretty phenomenal.
I thought it couldn't get any better. I'm like, wow, first three months, jumping in? It's all downhill from there.
To be honest with you, being the guest speaker for the Naples Area Khaki Ball at the Royal Continental Hotel was by far the greatest honor and the biggest highlight for me thus far. And so everything's been reset, recalibrated.
So when we make chiefs, it's not just the active duty members. We also bring in their family members as part of that brotherhood and sisterhood. And so putting on that CPO spouse symposium is of tremendous value as well.
So, overall, tremendous season. I couldn't be more proud of all of our chief's mess across the CNE, CNA battle space. I think everyone's done a phenomenal job and I'm looking forward to improving upon that and seeing what we do next year.
LT DIXON: Thank you, Fleet. And real quick, if I might ask, back when you were a first class when you found out you had made chief, describe to us that feeling, what did you feel when you found out you were going to become a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer?
FLEET WALTERS: Yeah. Great question, to be honest with you. I have to go pretty far back, to be honest with you, because I made chief in 1996 timeframe, so we're talking 23 years ago.
It was phenomenal. It is a seminal moment, where you transition from one aspect of our profession of arms to really being, you know, on the front lines of supervisory and leading troops. And so I would tell you, it's a significant threshold to really cross.
And I remember not wanting to take off my khakis for probably about a month, and actually walking around and visiting NCTS the other day, I saw some of our chief selects. And they were wearing their khakis while everyone else was wearing their type IIIs. And I asked them, had they taken off their khakis yet, and they said, absolutely not.
And so it's a significant milestone of accomplishment. But with added rank comes added responsibility, so much will be asked of them, to continue to contribute but, most importantly, be part of the leadership. And so it's a huge milestone.
LT DIXON: Fleet Walters, thank you for joining us and for telling us about your experience and also about our new navy chiefs.
Admiral, as always, sir, thank you for joining us.
ADM FOGGO: You bet, Lieutenant Dixon. Looking forward to the next time.
LT DIXON: “We hope you have enjoyed this episode of “On the Horizon; Navigating the European and African Theaters.” Please share the Podcast with your friends and family. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
Join us next time to hear about what the U.S. Navy is doing throughout Europe and Africa. Until next time, thank you.
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