LT DIXON: Welcome to the 13th episode of On The Horizon, Navigating the European and African Theaters. In this episode, we will discuss current operations in the Arctic, Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In addition, we will talk about the recent Naval War College sponsored Combined Force Maritime Component Commander Course, and the recent Chief of Naval Operations' visit to Rota and Naples.
Admiral, it's great to have you back with so much to talk about.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, thanks, Lieutenant Dixon, and it's great to record another episode of “On The Horizon.”
LT DIXON: Well, sir, let's get right to it. For our first segment, I want to discuss a few significant operations that we've conducted in Europe and Africa. What has our Navy been up to this past month?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Lieutenant Dixon, there's three big ticket items I want to highlight from the past month. First of all, David Muir, the anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, embarked USS Florida, a nuclear power guided missile submarine, right here in the Mediterranean. David's story recently aired and I would encourage everyone to watch it.
Secondly, I hope viewers are able to understand that USS Florida is an example of America's away team. We're out here defending against our adversaries and keeping them away from our homeland.
For me, I was excited to have David Muir here for a couple of reasons.
Number one, to highlight the importance of what the Navy is doing in Europe and Africa and how quickly the Navy can respond to any crisis in the world.
As a Navy, we operate in international waters and we don't need permission from any country to operate at the place or the time of our choosing.
Additionally, to highlight the strategic significance of the eastern Mediterranean and from this really key geographic location, the United States Navy can support three combatant commanders, the EUCOM Commander, the AFRICOM Commander and the CENTCOM Commander.
So as you know and realize, U.S. Navy presence is extremely important in these areas and as you look at the instability in the Middle East and North Africa and Russian actions in the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, we need to be out there projecting power and security.
Finally, Florida's one of four converted ballistic missile submarines that now carries the Tomahawk Land Attack cruise missile, originally designed to go out undetected for months.
USS Florida is impressive and it's important for our citizens and our adversaries to know about this awesome submarine. It's all about stealth and its key advantage - once it submerges, nobody can find it.
So to be frank with you, for 24 hours, nobody knew where David Muir, the anchor of ABC, was.
And this submarine is huge. It's as long as two football fields, it displaces or weighs, 18,000 tons.
Aside from aircraft carriers, there's no other platform that can provide such an offensive firepower. These submarines, these SSGNs, are a major conventional deterrent to any potential adversary.
So I'd encourage all of you to watch the ABC featured event. I can't recommend it enough. It's a rare look into life abroad a submarine and what makes this platform a vital asset to our national security.
LT DIXON: Thank you, sir. I saw the feature on USS Florida and it was absolutely amazing and highly recommend it to our audience. I've got to say it definitely gave me a better awareness and appreciation for what these submarines bring to the fight.
Now sir, we also have ships in the Black Sea and Arctic Circle around this same time. What can you tell us about the significance of this?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Lieutenant Dixon, I mentioned USS Florida was operating in the eastern Mediterranean. Another key maritime region in Europe is the Black Sea, a body of water that's bordered by Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia.
Last week, I was in Romania for Exercise Naples Blueprint. As part of this exercise, I visit Constanta, Romania, which is a coastal city on the shores of the Black Sea, and while in Constanta, what was significant is that I was joined by the Deputy Commander of NATO's Allied Maritime Command, French Admiral Hervé Bléjean - he's been a friend for a long time - and the Deputy Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, that's Vice Admiral Franchetti's other command, she's Sixth Fleet Commander and in Strike Force NATO. Her Deputy is British Admiral Guy Robinson.
So we had three senior maritime commanders present to send a message to anyone who would challenge the security and stability of the overall Black Sea. And while we were there, USS Porter, one of our Burke-class destroyers, was also in the Black Sea. This is the seventh time this year we've had a warship operating in that region, a U.S. warship.
In addition to the United States, six ships of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 were operating in the Black Sea to enhance cooperation and collaboration with our NATO allies and partners that border the Black Sea.
With Russia's increased aggressive behavior in the Black Sea, our naval presence as a NATO alliance or bilaterally, as the United States Navy and our partners and friends, makes a big difference.
The Black Sea is a vital waterway, it's critical to maritime commerce as well as security and stability in Europe. To highlight this point, the alliance has had more than 29 ships operating in the Black Sea this year alone.
So while all of this was going on, another one of our destroyers from Rota, the USS Donald Cook, was operating above the Arctic Circle to monitor and check Russian maritime activity.
So as you can see, Lieutenant Dixon, our Navy is operating in the Arctic Circle, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic. We are where we need to be and ready to respond on a moment's notice.
LT DIXON: And sir, so when you talk about the collective operations that the U.S. Navy is doing across Europe and Africa, you stress the importance of naval presence and why our naval forces are always operating forward.
For our second segment, I want to discuss a few major events, to include a special visitor to our area of operation. But first, this week, we are hosting the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander course here in Naples. What can you tell us about this course and why is it so important?
ADM FOGGO: It's a one week long course hosted annually by fleet commanders around the world, so we do our own version of that here in Europe and Africa with the U.S. Sixth Fleet and Commander of Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa.
It is facilitated by the U.S. Naval War College from Newport, Rhode Island.
The major reason that we host the course is to foster a dialogue with our European allies and sometimes our African partners. Last year, we did a separate course just for the African partners and European allies.
We share experiences and best practices in addressing the challenges of today's maritime security environment. The course is led by subject matter experts and aimed to improve the employment of naval forces in a joint coalition or an interagency environment. It informs our partners and allies, how we can deploy and employ our naval forces to deter and defend all of our interests.
And this year's course is different than previous years because we're focusing on high-end warfare this week. For example, integrated air and missile defense and anti-submarine warfare.
This iteration of the course brought together 14 nations from NATO members and partners. I taught a couple of classes, so did Admiral Franchetti.
We had Ambassador Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in to talk about the interagency process.
And we had General Wolters joined us as a guest speaker from EUCOM and Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
LT DIXON: Thank you, Admiral, for that rundown.
Now, right before CFMCC, Admiral Gilday, our new chief naval operations, visited Rota, Spain and Naples, Italy. Can you tell us a little bit about this visit and its importance?
ADM FOGGO: Well, thanks for that, Lieutenant Dixon. And you know, Admiral Gilday is the right guy to lead our Navy at this time. He visited Europe with a start in Rota, Spain, where our four forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command are located.
So NECC includes explosive ordinance disposal personnel, divers and Seabees who do good work every day throughout Europe and on the African continent, and I'm proud of them. So is he.
After Rota, he came to Naples, Italy, to our headquarters, for Naval Forces Europe and Africa and 6th Fleet. It was important for the CNO to hear from our sailors, and it was important for our sailors to hear the CNO's new guidance, firsthand.
I know that his visit really reinforced the significant work the Navy is doing in Europe and Africa, and who we are on the front lines of a great power competition with Russia and China, and defending against violent extremist organizations in the away-game, away from our homeland.
So our Naval Forces in Europe, Africa give our leadership options and the ability to negotiate from a position of strategic strength. And he saw that firsthand, in his first visit as CNO to the European theater.
LT DIXON: And, sir, if I may back up a little bit. I also understand that you and the CNO participated in a maritime symposium in northern Italy. How the Symposium and what was the purpose?
ADM FOGGO: It was fantastic. And in addition to his visit to Rota in Spain and here, to Naples, the CNO and I attended the Regional Seapower Symposium in Venice, Italy, where there were 34 heads of navy who came together to discuss collective defense and how to better work together to secure the maritime commons. The theme this year was “Shaping our Navies for the Blue Century.”
The CNO was the keynote speaker during this symposium, and his message was inclusive, and I quote. "Combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners who desire to build and strengthen the international economic order, we are operating toward the same end: continued security and stability that results in a free and open maritime commons," end quote.
Couldn't have said it better myself. It was great.
LT DIXON: And, Admiral, you spoke at the Navy Birthday Ball here in Naples, Italy. During your remarks, you shared the guidance that Admiral Gilday provided to our service members and civilians serving in Rota and Naples. Can you share with us what was said?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah, you're right. The Naples Navy Birthday Ball was a wonderful and well-attended event. You know, this is my third tour out here, I've done many of these and it was the best one that I've ever attended. And I'm being totally honest with you on that.
We paused at first to remember those who came before us, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Navy Birthday Balls allow us to celebrate a storied history of our service, and these events are a great opportunity to reflect on the past while we look towards the future.
Admiral Gilday's three main focus areas that he talked about when he was here, are pretty easy to remember: warfighters, warfighting and the future fleet. So I tried to shape my remarks for the Navy ball around these three focus areas, starting with warfighters, which really is everyone who attended in uniform.
As the CNO says, we must continue to recruit, educate, train and retain the most talented men and women because people are our greatest asset. Warfighters make the critical decisions that enable victory.
So for this year's birthday ball, the Navy, writ large, adopted, quote, "No Higher Honor," unquote, as its theme. Now, that was a quote from Lieutenant Commander Robert Copeland, who was commanding officer of USS Samuel B. Roberts during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
And I can tell you a lot about this story, thanks to the great work of Naval History and Heritage Command because they put out a lot of information about this.
But when I thought about it, I was reminded that, you know, Lieutenant Commander Copeland fought in the Pacific theater of operations. Since we live in Italy and we defend American and European interests from right here in the Mediterranean, I wanted to find an example with the same theme, “No Higher Honor”, by a warfighter in Italy.
So, you know, I asked for help from NHHC and Rear Admiral Sam Cox. And what he gave me was the history of the first aviator from any U.S. service to receive the Medal of Honor. It was a naval aviator. His name was Ensign Charles Hazeltine Hammann.
And he received the Medal of Honor for combat action against the German empire, to be specific, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in August of 1918.
Ensign Hammann flew a small sea plane that was based in Porto Corsini, near Venice, not far from here. And on the 21st of August, 1918, he flew an escort mission, accompanying two larger sea plane bombers over enemy territory. The enemy detected the Allied mission and attacked, and it resulted in a dogfight over the Adriatic Sea.
Ensign George Ludlow, United States Navy, who was flying with Hammann, was shot down. Hammann saw his American buddy in the water, alive, with his plane sinking beside him. And he decided to attempt a rescue in the Adriatic.
Now, this was extraordinary, Lieutenant Dixon, because Hammann's plane was a single-seater and was also shot up. So, by design, it would not fly with the weight of two aviators on board.
Hammann landed on the water anyway, because he's an American, and there was an American friend and pilot, fellow pilot, in peril, he picked up Ensign Ludlow and tried to take off. He struggled with the controls, finally got the aircraft airborne, subsequently returning to home base and saving his and Ensign Ludlow's life.
So for that act of bravery, Ensign Hammann was the first ever naval aviator to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is “no higher honor.” And it happened right here, in Italy. And our people love that story.
Sadly, Ensign Hammann was killed in a training accident in 1919 after the war. We named a destroyer escort after him, the USS Hammann.
When I told my old boss and mentor and friend, now U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Admiral Harry Harris, you know, he was the Sixth Fleet commander and then he was PAC Fleet commander and then he was PACOM commander and now he's the ambassador to South Korea, doing a great job. We still keep in touch.
I told Admiral Harris about the speech and he provided me an important family connection to USS Hammann. Ambassador Harris told me that USS Hammann saved his father's life in World War II.
His father was aboard USS Lexington when the carrier was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea. USS Hammann rescued nearly 500 men that day, including Ambassador Harris's father.
Ultimately, the ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine when rendering assistance to the damaged U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown during the decisive Battle of Midway. How ironic that Ensign Hammann's namesake continued to save American lives like he did in World War I during the following war, World War II in the Pacific.
LT DIXON: Admiral, what incredible and relevant story connecting two great Americans over the course of 100 years.
And bringing us back to the CNO’s focus areas, you mentioned “War Fighters” as the first one, what is the second one?
ADM FOGGO: So, the CNO's second focus area is warfighting. We've got to focus on war fighting and being the best at what we do when the nation needs it the most.
So that means committing to the training, maintenance and modernization to ensure that we're ready to fight.
Now, this year I was in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion. We often focus on what happened once those brave soldiers came ashore, but I want to touch on the seaborne element, Operation Neptune, that delivered them ashore.
The invasion fleet consisted of eight navies, almost 7,000 vessels, of which more than 1,200 were warships. Nearly 200,000 naval personnel took part, to include 53,000 American sailors.
Now, Major General Leonard T. Gerow, U.S. Army, 5th Corps Commander, summed up the sentiment from his headquarters on Omaha Beach in a message to the legendary general Omar Bradley, Commander U.S. First Army, who was out on board the heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) at the time of the invasion.
And General Gerow said, quote, "Thank God for the United States Navy," unquote.
Without the courage, innovation and steadfast resolve of those sailors, the D-Day landings would not have been successful. They understood the realities of war fighting, CNO's second focus area.
LT DIXON: And Admiral, if I may, it must be truly great from our Sailors prospective to be called a warfighter that is being trained on as you said “the realities of war fighting.” And what did you say concerning the CNO’s final focus area that brings this altogether?
ADM FOGGO: So the CNO's final focus area, the future fleet. Refers to the need to have the most lethal and capable force and to employ them with the most innovative concepts in naval warfare. In other words, we will fight to win, and if our adversaries understand that, then we will win without fighting.
Now, during the Navy ball, I could have talked about the innovation of the new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford. It has a revolutionary electromagnetic assisted launch catapult.
It has the most modern and powerful marine nuclear propulsion plan in the world. That gives us dwell, flexibility, agility and, most of all, speed.
It has the greatest fifth-generation F-35 on its flight deck.
I could have also talked about the MQ-25 Stingray. It's our unmanned refueling aircraft, the first ever deployed on a carrier. It gives us additional reach, just like that, a heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.
I could have talked about directed energy weapons, lasers and those new weapons systems that are being deployed on our ships. But I didn't talk about any of that.
Though our Navy and the nature of warfare will continue to evolve, the key attributes that enable victory, and they are resilience, toughness and unwavering dedication to duty, are human attributes.
And as I said at the ball, the future fleet is you, the men and women of the United States Navy. When I depart to pattern, someone else will take my place here. And you will have the watch.
So I wanted to ensure that our Navy remained in capable hands. And that's why I re-enlisted a motivated sailor, a master-at-arms, first class, David Livingston Smith, Jr., right there at the podium during my speech.
MA1 Smith hails from Alpharetta, Georgia, and he marked his 16th year of service to this great country that night.
Lieutenant Dixon, there was “no higher honor” than to be the guest speaker at this year's Naples Navy Birthday Ball and to have the privilege of re-enlisting MA1 David Smith.
LT DIXON: Admiral, as always, thank you for joining us.
ADM FOGGO: Thank you, Lieutenant Dixon. I'll see you 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 and Linkedin.
Join us next time to hear about what the U.S. Navy is doing throughout Europe and Africa. Until next time, thank you.