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Release No: 291-96
May 17, 1996

Remarks by William J. Perry Secretary of Defense Armed Forces Day May 17, 1996

Psalm 107 begins with the words, They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord.

Today, as we celebrate Armed Forces Day, we also mourn the loss of an American who loved to go down to the sea in ships, and who did great business in great waters in the service of freedom, peace and security. His name was Admiral Jeremy Boorda -- Mike to all who knew him.

Admiral Boorda was a sailor's sailor, a seaman recruit who rose to be the Chief of Naval Operations. At every stage of his career, Mike put the interests of sailors and their families first. And he helped make our Navy the best that the world has ever seen. I relied on his advice. I loved his spirit. And I admired his love for the Navy and its people. His untimely death is a terrible blow to his family, but it is also a loss to the Navy, to the Department of Defense; indeed, to the nation.

But Mike's legacy -- the Navy he helped to create -- will live on. I want to tell you today about a discussion I had with Mike that best captures his pride in the Navy. It had to do with the remarkable six-month deployment last year by the Nimitz-class carrier named for the father of naval aviation, Theodore Roosevelt. During this deployment, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, affectionately known as T.R., flew the American flag in no less than two oceans, four seas and the Arabian Gulf. When they returned to their home port in Norfolk, Mike came down to my office to see me, excited and bursting with pride. And he arranged to have the skipper of T.R. describe the deployment to me. I want to describe it to you, because it is a vivid example of Mike's Navy in action.

When T.R. started out last March, it first went to the Arabian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Then it sailed to the Mediterranean to conduct routine exercises with some of our allies in the area, as well as some of our new friends. For example, two of the battle group's frigates took part in training exercises in the Black Sea with the navies of Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia and Ukraine. Together, they practiced fire drills, damage control and coming alongside. These exercises were typical Navy at-sea training activities. But there was nothing typical about navies that once trained to fight against each other in war, now training to work with each other in the cause of peace.

At the same time, T.R. supported NATO's Deny Flight operation enforcing the no-fly zone over the former Yugoslavia. Then, in August, several members of Saddam Hussein's family defected to Jordan, and Saddam moved his army as if he might lash out at his neighbors. We immediately moved T.R. to the Eastern Mediterranean and sent an amphibious Marine force to the Red Sea. Both forces positioned to support Jordan. These deployed forces with credible combat power sent Saddam a clear message, and his army returned to their barracks.

Soon after this crisis died down, the Bosnian Serbs, in defiance of a NATO ultimatum, began shelling Sarajevo. So we rushed T.R. back to the Adriatic Sea to conduct NATO air strikes. During that operation, T.R. launched 600 air sorties into Bosnia. And these sorties played a critical role in bringing the warring parties to the negotiating table in Dayton -- and peace to Bosnia today.

So on one six-month deployment, T.R. helped to promote a new era of peace and cooperation in Europe; helped a friend in need; deterred Saddam Hussein; and played a vital role in ending the deadliest fighting in Europe since World War II.

Mike had every reason to be proud of T.R.'s battle group. And nobody -- nobody -- had more pride in his sailors. The hallmark of Mike's remarkable Navy career was a heartfelt recognition that no ship, no battle group, is better than the people who sail with it. He knew we cannot send our ships on extended overseas deployments without also having sophisticated and well-trained people with good morale.

Today, we have such people. Their dedication and pride never fails to impress me everywhere that I meet them -- in bases in the United States, in ships at sea, and in bases overseas. From the group of junior petty officers I met in San Diego last month who, at the end of a long grueling sea trial, asked me to re-enlist them. To the senior petty officer who volunteered to delay her retirement for the chance to be among the first women to deploy on a combat vessel. When I met with her during my visit last year to the USS EISENHOWER, I asked her why she had extended. She told me that in her 20 years in the Navy, she had always been assigned to shore duty with the supply ships, and she wanted at least one tour on a Navy warship because she wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren that she had been a real sailor.

This sailor, her shipmates, and indeed, everyone who wears the uniform of the United States military, is the heart, the brains and the courage behind our defense strategy.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ... And whose place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Throughout the 20th century, nobody has been more thoroughly engaged in the arena than the United States Armed Forces, and the men and women who lead them. It is their willingness to enter the arena, to live the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, to have their faces marred by the dust, the sweat, and blood, that determines the difference between victory and defeat, and keeps our country safe and secure.

Today, let us dedicate this Armed Forces Day to the legacy and memory of a sailor's sailor; a patriot, a leader, an officer, an American; a man who dedicated his life to keeping our country safe and secure.

Last month, in his annual State of the Navy address, Mike Boorda talked about some of the difficult challenges facing the modern Navy. But he concluded by saying, Do we have the best Navy in the world? You can count on it.

As usual, he got it right -- Mike's Navy is the best Navy in the world. And not only do we have the best Navy, we also have the best Army, the best Air Force and the best Marine Corps in the world. You can count on it.


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