Gates Expresses Gratitude to Sailors, Workers During Shipyard Tour
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
BATH, Maine, May. 23, 2009 It wasn’t the enormity of the sections of ship being welded together at Bath Iron Works here that impressed the defense secretary yesterday, but rather those stitching the hulking pieces together and the crews that would man the finished ships.
SETTING THE BAR - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signs a poster welcoming him to Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics shipbuilding plant in Bath, Maine, May 22, 2009. “This is the first shipyard I’ve ever visited and you’ve set the bar pretty high for everybody else,” Gates said
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I’m just really impressed by the professionalism and the pride of the workers that I’ve seen here at Bath Iron Works,” Robert M. Gates said from the fantail of the nearly finished USS Wayne E. Meyer, hull number DDG-108. “This is the first shipyard I’ve ever visited and you’ve set the bar pretty high for everybody else.”
The military ships built at Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics company, make a huge difference for the country, he added. Currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are more sailors on land than on ships.
“So the Navy is making a huge contribution to the fight both at sea and on land,” Gates said. “I just want to thank you for all you do. Thank you for the quality of the workmanship. Thank you, both in and out of uniform, for your service and your dedication to this cause.
“For those of you who are the workers here at Bath, I know a number of you have served in the military and I want to thank you for that service as well,” he added. “Thank you for having such pride in what you do.”
The workers will be able to continue to exercise their pride far into the future, the secretary told reporters later. With money in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget, Bath Iron Works will build the third DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer. It’s anticipated that after that, the shipyard will return to building DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers.
Though these ships, both classes, are designed to fight, they’ll do much more than that in their lifetimes, including humanitarian work.
“They do a lot of training and helping of our partner countries to improve their own military capabilities. Because … if they’re good we won’t have to send out troops if there’s a problem,” Gate said. “There’s a lot of versatility to these ships and I think everybody from the very beginning of the republic has always believed a great Navy is critical to our national security and we have the best.”
He said he’s suspended decisions on adding to the amphibious fleet until the Quadrennial Defense Review is complete. The QDR analyzes strategic objectives and potential military threats and will provide some answers on how much amphibious capability is needed.
Earlier in the day, the secretary toured the USS Iwo Jima, docked in New York harbor for Fleet Week. Gates had been in the city to accept the 2009 Intrepid Freedom Award at a dinner aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
He then flew to Maine and visited with about 120 sailors who will soon deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of operations and Djibouti. He expressed his gratitude to the sailors for their efforts and posed for a photo with each of them before presenting them with his challenge coin.