There’s no question the events of Sept. 11, 2001, had a profound effect on the military. From its tactics, to its strategy, to its equipment, to its people – much changed after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. But not everything. Shortly after taking office, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert reinforced the Navy’s legacy of warfighting success by setting forth tenets that, in many ways, can trace their lineage back to the 1775 founding of the U.S. Navy: Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready.
On the 14th anniversary of the attacks for which their ships are named, the commanding officers of the amphibious transport docks USS New York (LPD 21), USS Arlington (LPD 24), and USS Somerset (LPD 25) share what the CNO’s tenets mean to them and their Sailors.
Every day USS New York and her crew serve as a living tribute to the thousands of civilians and first responders who lost their lives that day in New York. Since her commissioning in 2009, the ship has grown from a vessel of remembrance to a force that honors the sacrifices of the past by acting in the present to fortify our nation’s future. With 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center Towers in her bow, New York is the embodiment of her motto: “Strength Forged Through Sacrifice – Never Forget.”
Today’s dynamic environment is multi-faceted and so too are our Sailors. We train across the full spectrum of military operations from theater security to combat operations. We also train to and maintain the ship, ensuring it too is capable of the fight. That training enables sustained operations from a sea-base to offer solutions by air, land and sea. Our Sailors hone their skills to build a proficiency that becomes second nature, so when called upon, their response is precise and instinctive.
Our warfighting capability begins with a proud and tested heritage; it continues with our mindset of determined preparation. New York’s Sailors put warfighting first every day. That dedication is especially evident now, as we conduct deployment preparations; continuously arming ourselves with the skills, knowledge and fortitude to stand on the front lines in defense of our nation. Our credible, capable, and proficient Sailors and Marines give New York the power to rapidly react to whatever challenges we encounter – the ability to fight and win.
When USS Arlington came to life on April 6, 2013, among those rushing onboard to bring the ship to life were 200 first responders who performed emergency medical, police and firefighting services at the Pentagon on that fateful day 13 years ago. Remembering the attack as well as the sense of purpose and understanding of duty exuded by the first responders is a continued source of motivation for the crew.
Like those valiant men and women, Arlington is designed to be a first responder. Whether it’s landing expeditionary forces across the globe, conducting counter-piracy operations, or providing humanitarian assistance, Arlington compliments our uniquely qualified Navy to immediately respond to crises. We are where it matters when it matters.
In addition to responding to crises, Arlington, aligned with our shipmates across the fleet, reinforces partnerships, assures allies and deters aggression. Through various exercises and operations, we build and maintain partnerships with other U.S. military branches, as well as coalition partners and allies. This year, Arlington has been assigned to operate under the leadership of a Dutch Commodore in a coalition amphibious ready group for Exercise Bold Alligator. This will truly be a coalition effort as more than 800 Sailors and Marines from the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and Canada embark Arlington to participate in the exercise. But in today’s environment, ‘forward’ means leaning even further; sometimes past the global landscape. This year, Arlington continued a tradition of partnership with NASA to train in recovery operations of the Orion space capsule.
Our efforts over the past year and a half are just the beginning. For the next half-century the nation’s far-reaching presence will include USS Arlington, operating forward, protecting American interests through partnership and through action. This ship was designed and the crew manned and trained to provide necessary off-shore options to the President and Navy leadership.
From 1775, to Sept. 11, to today; our forces stand ready to honor our commitments and our heritage. We are honored to be a symbol of our Navy’s and our nation’s legacy and unyielding strength.
The newest LPD in the fleet, Somerset is the last of the three ships named in honor of the victims and first responders of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the final resting place of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. On March 1, Somerset joined her sister ships, USS New York and USS Arlington, in active naval service.
Named after Somerset County, Pa., USS Somerset represents the heroism of the 40 crew members and passengers of United Flight 93. Had it not been for their brave actions, the terrorists would have reached their intended target and countless more lives would have been lost.
In her bow is 22 tons of steel from the towering crane’s dragline bucket used during recovery operations and that proudly displayed the American flag near the crash site of United Flight 93. USS Somerset is and always will be a direct representation of the heroic actions on September 11, 2001 by the crew members and passengers of United Airline Flight 93. This reminder of the collective sacrifice and tremendous courage displayed in the face of overwhelming adversity will be a mobile memorial leading Somserset through the oceans throughout the world.
To achieve our core responsibility as a Navy we must build and sustain a ready fighting force. Somerset does this by training and equipping our Sailors with what they need to fight and win today. Like all Navy ships Somerset’s crew trains like it fights. Meaning we develop in our crew a thorough understanding of their equipment, supreme confidence in how it works, and an ability to operate it in any environment. The most technologically advanced equipment means nothing if, when the time comes, our Sailors are unable to operate it. Onboard Somerset, being ready means dedicating the time and resources to train — realistic training that tests and trains our Sailors and builds our crew’s proficiency and confidence. It is through this training and preparedness that we build that bond of trust, so when the time comes to act, we’ll know when one says “let’s roll,” the rest will follow.