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Great Power Competition: Navy’s Top Admiral in Europe and Africa discusses Navy’s Efforts in Europe

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs | Nov. 6, 2019

In the 13th episode of “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA), discussed the importance of American naval presence in the European theater.

Foggo highlighted U.S. Navy operations in the Arctic Circle, Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, Foggo overviewed the recent Combined Force Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) course, the new Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) visit to Rota, Spain, and Naples, Italy, and his participation in the Regional Seapower Symposium, which was hosted by the Italian Navy in Venice.

ABC News Underway with America’s Away Team

To start off the episode, Foggo reviewed a media embark aboard a guided-missile submarine operating in the Eastern Mediterranean. He outlined the strategic implications of American naval vessels operating in this area and the incredible capability and inherent flexibility guided-missile submarines provide our senior leaders.

David Muir, anchor for ABC’s “World News Tonight,” recently embarked the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) to learn how the great power competition is playing out between the U.S. and Russia. Muir embarked Florida in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and was shown how the Submarine Force supports freedom and democracy throughout the European theater.

David’s story can be found here: ABC World News Tonight Exclusive - USS Florida

Foggo refers to Florida and other U.S. Navy assets as “America’s Away Team,” emphasizing the importance of forward-deployed forces in the European and African theaters.

“We’re out here defending against our adversaries and keeping them away from our homeland,” said Foggo. “[The feature by David Muir] is a rare look into life aboard a submarine and what makes this platform a vital asset to our national defense.”

Florida, which is capable of carrying more than 100 Tomahawks, is also known for stealth, which is one of its key advantages; once submerged, no one can find it.

“For 24 hours, nobody knew where David Muir was,” quipped Foggo.

Media engagement is important, and visitor embarks showcase the importance of the Navy’s presence in Europe and Africa. Increasing naval presence in Europe and Africa is vital given the dynamic security environment.

“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 at Russian actions in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, we need to be out there projecting our vision of power and security,” said Foggo.

Across the Area of Responsibility

In the next segment of the podcast, Foggo talked the audience through the European area of responsibility, starting in the Black Sea as he had just returned from Constanta, Romania. There, he met with Deputy Commander of NATO's Allied Maritime Command French Vice Adm. Herve Blejean, and Deputy Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO British Rear Adm. Guy Robinson.

“We had three senior maritime commanders present [during exercise Naples Blueprint] to send a message to anyone who would challenge the security and stability of the Black Sea,” said Foggo.

While Foggo was in Romania, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was conducting maritime operations in the Black Sea with our NATO allies and partners.

“This is the seventh time this year we’ve had a [U.S.] warship operating in that region,” said Foggo.

In addition to Porter, six ships assigned to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasure Group Two were operating in the Black Sea working alongside NATO allies and partners bordering the Black Sea.

“With Russia’s increased aggressive behavior in the Black Sea, our naval presence is extremely important,” said Adm. Foggo. “The Black Sea is a vital waterway, critical to maritime commerce and as well as security and stability in Europe.”

Following remarks about Florida in the Eastern Mediterranean and U.S. destroyers and NATO ships in the Black Sea, Foggo also highlighted the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) operations above the Arctic Circle during the same timeframe, monitoring Russian maritime activity.

“Our Navy is operating in the Arctic Circle, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the North Atlantic,” Foggo said at the conclusion of the segment. “We are where we need to be and ready to respond on a moment's notice.”

High-end Warfighting

Last week, U.S. 6th Fleet hosted the CFMCC course at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy. Leaders from 15 European nations met to discuss maritime security during the week-long course.

“We share experiences and best practices in addressing the challenges of today's maritime security environment,” said Foggo. “The course [was] led by subject matter experts and aimed to improve the employment of naval forces in a joint coalition or an interagency environment. Basically, it inform[ed] our partners and allies [on] how we can deploy and [how best to] deploy our naval forces to deter and defend all of our interests.”

This year’s course focused on high-end warfare like integrated air and missile defense and anti-submarine warfare. Graduates of CFMCC gained the ability to enhance the understanding of maritime security issues between participating nations. Together, students addressed challenges between allied and partner nations in the framework of regional challenges and discussed solutions to these common interests and concerns.

The course featured senior civilian and military leaders as guest speakers.

“We had Ambassador Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Greece and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, talk about the interagency process,” said Foggo. “We had Gen. Wolters join us as a guest speaker from [U.S. European Command] and Supreme Allied Commander Europe.”

The value of courses such as this can be seen in exercises, operations, and senior leader engagements with allied and partner nations, as they improve effectiveness and joint interoperability during premier exercises such as Formidable Shield, Dynamic Mongoose, BALTOPS, and Sea Breeze.

CNO’s Focus Areas Enable Victory

Foggo highlighted his participation at the Navy’s 244th Birthday Ball in Naples, Italy, and how he included the CNO’s focus areas of “warfighters, warfighting, and the future fleet” into his speech.

“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,” said Foggo. “Warfighters make the critical decisions that enable victory. [Everyone in a uniform is a warfighter].”

The theme for this year’s Navy birthday was “No Higher Honor,” which was a quote from Lt. Cmdr. Robert Copeland, commanding officer of the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413), during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Foggo used an example of this theme from the Atlantic theater of operations. He chose to highlight the actions of Ensign Charles Hazeltine Hammann, the first naval aviator to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during WWI.

During a mission off the coast of Italy, Hammann landed his aircraft on the Adriatic Sea to rescue a downed pilot. Even though the aircraft could only hold one person, Hammann was able to take off and saved the life of his shipmate, Ensign George Ludlow.

“For that act of bravery, Ensign Hammann was the first ever naval aviator to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,” said Foggo. “There is ‘No Higher Honor,’ and it happened right here in Italy.”

Hammann was killed in a training accident in 1919 after the war. In 1939, the Navy named the Sims-class destroyer escort USS Hammann (DD 412) after him.

Foggo continued to describe the connection between Hammann and his namesake; like the Sailor, the ship saved the lives of many Sailors during its active service to include the father of the current U.S. Ambassador to South Korea.

“Ambassador Harris told me that USS Hammann saved his father's life in World War II,” said Foggo. “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. 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.”

Foggo then spoke about the CNO’s second focus area – warfighting.

“We've got to focus on warfighting and being the best at what we do when the nation needs it the most,” said Foggo. “That means committing to training, maintenance, and modernization to ensure that we're ready to fight.”

As an example, Foggo discussed his recent trip to France.

“This year, I was in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion,” he said. “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 consisting of almost 7,000 vessels, more than 1,200 of which were warships. Nearly 200,000 naval personnel took part in the operation, including 53,000 American Sailors.

U.S. Army Major Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, 5th Corps Commander, summed up the sentiment from his headquarters on Omaha Beach in a message to Gen. Omar Bradley, commander, U.S. First Army, who was aboard the Northampton-class cruiser Augusta (CA 31) at the time of the invasion. The sentiment was simple: “Thank God for the United States Navy.”

“Without the courage, innovation, and steadfast resolve of those Sailors, the D-Day landings would not have been successful,” said Foggo. “They understood the realities of warfighting, [the] CNO's second focus area.”

Foggo then spoke about the CNO’s final focus area – the future fleet.

“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. We will fight to win; if our adversaries understand that, then we will win without fighting.

“Though our Navy and the nature of warfare will continue to evolve, the key attributes that enable victory [will remain the same],” said Foggo. “[The attributes] are resilience, toughness, and unwavering dedication to duty - human attributes. As I said at the Navy Ball, the future fleet is you, the men and women of the United States Navy.  When I depart the pattern, someone else will take my place here, and you will have the watch.”

Heads of Navy

The new CNO of the Navy, Adm. Michael M. Gilday, recently visited two naval bases in Europe: Naval Station Rota and Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples. In the last segment of the podcast, Foggo spoke about this visit.

“Adm. Gilday is the right guy to lead our Navy at this time,” said Foggo. “He visited Europe with a start in Rota, where our four forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command are located.”

After the visit to Rota, Gilday headed to Naples to visit the headquarters of CNE-CNA and U.S. 6th Fleet. He spoke with Sailors assigned to NSA Naples, meeting with them on a more personal level.

“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,” said Foggo. “Our naval forces in Europe and Africa give our leadership options and the ability to negotiate from a position of strategic strength. [Adm. Gilday] saw that firsthand in his first visit as CNO to the European theater.”

During the podcast, Foggo also touched on his and the CNO’s participation in a recent maritime symposium in Venice.

“The CNO and I attended the Regional Sea Power Symposium in Venice, Italy,” said Foggo. “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 a keynote speaker at the event and delivered a strong, inclusive message to allies and partners.           

"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,” said Gilday.

In today’s dynamic security environment, no nation can confront the current challenges and threats alone. The U.S. Navy continues to work with our partners and allies across the globe.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

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