Serving on the High Seas: A look at U.S. Navy Readiness
All this week, 21 News is bringing you stories about operations in the U.S. Navy from Naval Base Norfolk in Virginia. In this edition of Serving on the High Seas, we're focusing on U.S. Navy readiness.
As the colors are raised at Naval Base Norfolk, sailors in the U.S. Navy remain on high alert.
"I think that we're prepared for whatever we need to do, at the end of the day, we signed on the dotted lines, we know what's at stake," said Madelyn Schmidt, a sailor on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.
"We are ready to respond at any given time, we're ready to get the boat back into a fighting spot, we're in a maintenance period, gearing up, ready to go in case the country needs us," said Alexandra Brunell, an Assistant Weapons Officer on the submarine USS New Hampshire.
Two carrier strike groups are currently in the Mediterranean watching over the conflict in Israel. The Navy is also keeping close tabs on China, which has previously threatened to invade Taiwan, an important American ally. The call to deploy could come at any time.
"Right after 9/11, the conflicts that we were facing as a nation were primarily on the land but we've seen in just the past couple of years that we are getting back to a maritime domain," Captain Dave Hecht, a Public Affairs Officer with U.S. Fleet Forces Command said. "Our strategic competition that we have around the world is very focused on the seas. Russia, China, their Navies are building and so we are training 24/7 365 days a year for all different scenarios."
Around one-third of the U.S. Navy is always deployed, a strategy that results in a quick response if needed.
"The Navy is a maritime force, so we are not forced to be within a garrison, we're not forced to be on a base," Captain Hecht said. "We can forward deploy and we need to be forward deployed, so when the President calls and says where is the nearest carrier, we always have carriers on deployment whether that be in the Atlantic, Pacific, the Mediterranean, we're always forward deployed so if we are needed, we're there, we're already there."
21 News got a chance to witness flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Atlantic. The carrier only recently returned to sea after a six year extended maintenance period.
"We're building this battle minded crew on a combat ready ship again almost from the ground up and so that, there is a sense of urgency there to do that first and then the sense of urgency of we need to make sure we're ready because come April we are sailing for San Diego and we are going to turn over the Reagan and then we're going to head to Japan and there is not going to be an option to say we need more time and I think the crew embraces that challenge and understands the challenge and I think now again it's that purpose that we need to, everyday matters, there is no white space, you know we don't have anymore time to say we'll just do it next week, it has to happen now because we got to be ready come April to leave for San Diego," said Captain Brent Gaut, the Commanding Officer on USS George Washington.
Sailors aboard Washington also feel that sense of urgency.
"We've definitely been picking up more on weapons training," Schmidt said. "A lot more general quarter drills, making sure everybody is in the right headspace for what we need to do if the moment arises."
"I think all of our sailors now know what is going on around the world, I think they understand and I think what we train for, they are ready to go out there and do what they have to do," Petty Officer Jeffrey Melnek said.
It's a commitment to defending its allies and partners around the world.
"The U.S. is a world leader and we're a world leader in peace," Captain Hecht said. "We don't want to have to go to war, we don't want to have to fight but to ensure this planet stays one of peace, we have to be that forward presence out there. We have to show our adversaries around the world that the U.S. and our allies and partners are not going to back down and that we want nothing but peace in this country. Diplomacy is first and foremost but when diplomacy fails, the U.S. Navy is there."
Tuesday night on 21 News at 11, a look at the vital role aircraft carriers play in the U.S. Navy and our exclusive trip to a carrier out in the Atlantic where a Youngstown native works as an Operations Specialist.