You don’t always hear about the Navy.
Sure, there are plenty of missions you have heard about (they’re usually turned into a movie). Captain Phillips’ rescue. The Usama Bin Laden raid. The arrest of Manuel Noriega. The Battle at Midway. Maybe you know that Navy football has beat Army 14 years in a row (had to throw that in there). Or maybe last week, you heard about ships preparing for humanitarian missions as part of the relief for Hurricane Matthew.
Maybe you know that sixteen years ago yesterday, the USS Cole sat in port in Aden, Yemen for a brief, albeit routine, refueling stop. Based out of Norfolk, the Navy ship was en route to the Persian Gulf from the Red Sea to support the United Nations. It was a world before 9/11, a time when Bin Laden wasn’t a household name. As the Cole refueled, reports say a small fiberglass vessel pulled beside the destroyer. Loaded with explosives and two suicide bombers, the boat version of a truck bomb detonated, blasting a massive hole in the side of the ship. Al Qaeda quickly claimed “credit” for the attack and the notion of global terrorism felt truly global. The Navy lost 17 sailors that day, 39 more were injured, and it forever changed the landscape of security at sea.
Maybe you know all that already.
You might even know that the Navy celebrates its 241st birthday today. But did you hear the news this morning that the USS Nitze launched cruise missiles to destroy radar sites in Yemen? Twice in the last week, missiles have been launched by Houthi rebels at other ships in the area, the USS Mason and the USS Ponce.
You don't always hear about the Navy.
Maybe you don’t know the story of the helicopter pilots from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 who flew to the island of Alamagan in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Choi-Wan and rescued a 5 day old baby.
Maybe you haven’t heard about the time High Speed Vessel Swift rescued 7 Guatemalan special forces sailors when their vessel capsized.
Maybe you don’t know the name LT Pete Summers, who was given the Bronze Star for his expertise in electronic warfare that led him to install counter-IED equipment and train soldiers how to use it. You may not know his name, but his equipment enabled soldiers to detect 38 IEDs before they could detonate, saving dozens of lives.
Maybe you didn’t know that in the wake of September 11, 2001, the USNS Comfort pulled into port in New York harbor to provide food, berthing space and laundry services to the hundreds of emergency personnel and first responders working on the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
The thing is, there are a million stories like these. Rescues, transports, safety provided and aide given. There are countless stories you’ll never hear, but you are safer today because of our sailors, our SEALs and our aviators. You are safer because of the 24/7 operations of our Navy.
So much has changed in the Navy’s storied 241 year history. From the slogans to the standards to the uniforms and the use of rates. But so much has remained the same. The commitment of our brave men and women willing and ready to serve, anywhere and anytime. The unwavering resolve of our Navy to remain the world’s premier naval power. The determination to keep peace in international waters. While the mission has evolved, it hasn’t fundamentally changed. According to the Navy's website, “The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.” They certainly do that, and more.