By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
In the 19th episode of “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Adm. James G. Foggo III hosted the 77th Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite to diversity and equal opportunity in the Navy, discuss naval presence in Europe, and their time at the U.S. Naval Academy.
In addition, Admiral Foggo spoke about exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2020, Black Sea operations, and the major changes in status between Ukraine and NATO/U.S.
The U.S. joined 18 allied and partner nations to conduct multinational air and maritime training operations during BALTOPS 2020. Foggo emphasized the importance of the exercise in improving interoperability and warfighting skills in a crucial location.
“[The Baltic Sea is] a critical artery of commerce, with up to 15 percent of the world's cargo traffic transiting through that region and a lot of nations bordering on the sea, many of them our friends” said Foggo. “This dynamic security environment in the Baltic demands cooperation to ensure freedom of movement and consequently economic prosperity, and that requires a commitment from regional partners and allies and certainly from NATO.”
Continued Presence in the Black Sea
Foggo discussed U.S. 6th Fleet’s decision to simultaneously send USS Porter (DDG 78), a Rota-based Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), a member of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, into the Black Sea to conduct routine operations as a demonstration of our continued commitment to NATO allies and partners in the region.
“At every opportunity, we seek to conduct bilateral and multilateral training and evolutions with our regional allies and partners when we have U.S. assets in the Black Sea,” said Foggo. “Our commitment to promoting peace and stability in this region is unmatched and steadfast.”
Support for Ukraine
Foggo focused on our relationship with Black Sea partners to include two major changes in U.S. support to Ukraine. The first is the release of $250 million in aid packages, and the second is the NATO change in status for Ukraine to Enhanced-Opportunities Partner (EOP).
“This funding will improve maritime and air situational awareness,” said Foggo. “NATO’s recognition of the Ukraine as an EOP… aims to maintain and deepen cooperation between allies and partners... It brings tailored opportunities to help sustain their military.”
Diversity and Equal Opportunity
Braithwaite joined Foggo for the final section of the podcast to discuss what the Navy is doing and why the Navy is important, especially in Europe. The pair discussed recent events in the U.S. and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Navy
Foggo mentioned a recent letter from him and Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, and letters from other military leaders in the region, emphasizing respect, dignity and inclusion in the military.
Braithwaite discussed his thoughts on the way forward for the Navy and military as a whole.
“In my discussions with the Secretary of Defense and the other service secretaries, we want to make sure that the department builds off that record of recognizing the importance of one whole [desegregated] service,” said Braithwaite. “Whether you’re green or purple or whatever color, race, creed, religion, it doesn’t matter. If you are my shipmate and I’m going into combat and you have my best interests, you have my back and I have yours, that’s all that matters.”
The SECNAV said the Department of Defense has taken great strides since the 1940s but that there is still work to be done.
“We need to be dedicated to that work; we need to be dedicated… to what it means to serve in our military as one team, one fight,” said Braithwaite. “Those aren't just words that we should be speaking, they are words that we need to be living.”
Maritime Security in Europe
Foggo asked Braithwaite to discuss his thoughts on maritime security in Europe as a former Navy admiral and the former Ambassador to Norway. Braithwaite emphasized the importance of the NATO alliance and other partnerships in ensuring stability and security in the region.
“We have many of the nations of Europe serving with us around the world in crisis situations each and every day, and they go into harm's way with us… as our sisters and brothers in arms,” said Braithwaite. “I think it's important to recognize that, to speak to that… and to reassure our allies throughout Europe of our commitment.”
They discussed the size and success of exercise Trident Juncture 2019, and Braithwaite addressed the importance of naval presence in the Arctic.
“The Arctic is a changing environment,” said Braithwaite. “Having a presence there and again reminding any who would challenge our rights to be there is extremely important.”
Braithwaite ended the segment by stating the necessity of our continued presence in the High North to ensure freedom of the seas and reinforce our right to operate there.
Key Takeaways from the SECNAV
Braithwaite discussed his big three takeaways for the fleet: pride in service, taking care of our people, and preparing for the future.
“The first and most important thing is to take pride in our service,” said Braithwaite. “You and I and all the Sailors and Marines are part of the greatest Navy the world has ever known, and we need to remember that… The Navy’s had some missteps recently, and we need to build past those, we need to understand the lessons learned from those.”
He recognized the sacrifices of service members and their families and the importance in taking care of and recognizing them for their efforts.
“It begins with people,” said Braithwaite. “We can have all of the most fantastic, capable ships, airplanes, and submarines that the people of America can give to us, but if we don’t have… the capable, educated people to serve aboard these platforms, then we’re not a capable service.”
Braithwaite’s final point was to ensure he redirects and reorganizes the Navy in an effective, efficient, and capable way to meet future challenges.
“I want to make sure that we build the right fleet to meet the challenges and threats of the future,” said Braithwaite. “It’s clearly and directly looking at [if] we have the resources that we need [and ensure we are] directing our vision in the right manner to ensure we achieve that.”
The podcast concluded with SECNAV’s takeaways from Adm. Bulkeley, who spoke at his USNA graduation and commissioning ceremony.
“…To put service above self, to be part of something that is truly greater than self is something that we all should take immense pride in and commit ourselves to doing all that we can on behalf of the people of America each and every day,” said Braithwaite.