Navy Secretary Says Sailor, Marine Morale High on Carriers
By Linda D. Kozaryn
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2001 Morale is "terrific" aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Carl Vinson and other U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, according to Navy Secretary Gordon England.
Sailors and Marines "know the nation is behind them," England told CNN's Larry King during a Nov. 5 interview. "They know they have a mission. They've been training for this mission. They're doing terrific out there.
Navy Secretary Gordon England addresses the crew of the carrier USS Kitty Hawk Oct. 30, 2001, to thank the officers and crew for their hard work and efforts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Petty Officer 3rd class Jessica Granger, USN.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"All the mothers, fathers, and brothers and sisters and kids -- you should be proud of everybody back there on those carriers and ships, because they're just doing a great job," he advised the CNN audience.
On his first overseas trip since taking office, England spent four days in the Gulf, visiting service members at sea and ashore. On CNN, he noted that service members taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom are all volunteers. After meeting with a host of flight crews, maintenance personnel and Fifth Fleet headquarters staff in Bahrain, the secretary concluded the trip was good for his morale.
"It was exhilarating," he said. "You get out there with all the young men and women. It's just a great experience to know that these men and women are out there defending the nation. They're out there, on the front lines, defending freedom and liberty."
Among the troops, he reported, the biggest concern is for the folks back home facing the threat of anthrax. England said he reassured sailors and Marines that the federal government is responding and will safeguard America's citizens.
At each stop, England said he told troops that the war on terrorism must succeed. "This is a threat that we have to eradicate," he stressed. "If we do not succeed, as the president said, our children will live in terror, and our grandchildren."
The Navy is playing a major role in combating terrorism, according to the secretary. When there are no land bases, he pointed out, it's important to have the Navy bring in its firepower and the U.S. Marines.
Each of the three aircraft carriers in the Gulf constitutes four and a half acres of sovereign land. The USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship, adds another three acres. The Peleliu, England added, is "chock-full of battle-ready Marines.
"This has been a team that's been together for 226 years," he said. "Sailors and Marines -- it's a great tradition. It's 226 years of excellence together."
The carriers and other ships each carry 30 days worth of food, water and ammunition -- everything it takes to sustain the fight, England said. The mobile, sustainable force is ready for whatever the president orders. Currently, he noted, their pilots and crews are carrying "a lot of the load" of the ongoing operation.
"We do a lot of missions now over Afghanistan," the secretary said. "We have both Navy and Marine pilots flying every day off the deck, including the Peleliu, where we have vertical-takeoff airplanes (flown) by our Marines." Navy and Marine Corps pilots rely on the Air Force for refueling, he added, giving credit where credit is due.
The air strikes should not be interrupted because of religious observances, he said. "Ramadan is not a reason to stop this war. This is a war against terrorists, not a war against religion," he said. "As long as they're there, we will prosecute this war."
"This is important, not only to the United States, but to every single person on the face of the earth," he concluded. "We must prevail at this. So we are ready to prosecute this war, and we will prosecute it to a successful conclusion."
(Linda Kozaryn works for DefendAmerica.mil.)