By Annalisa Underwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
All college football eyes will be on the 116th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa. on Dec. 12. Navy’s midshipmen will play with hopes of extending their record to a 14th straight victory over Army’s cadets. Sustaining that level of energy, focus and success takes hard work. And it might also be contagious.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is on his own notable streak. He’s the longest serving SECNAV since World War I. He recently entered the top five all-time longest serving SECNAVs list, joining the ranks of Robert Smith who served for 2,777 days from 1801 to 1809, George Robeson who served for 2,816 days from 1869 to 1877, Gideon Welles who served for 2,919 days from 1861 to 1869, and Josephus Daniels who served for 2,922 days from 1913 to 1921. Mabus himself ranks fifth on the list, having served for 2,397 days (and counting) since he took office May 19, 2009.
And did you know that with six Navy victories over Army on his watch, he also holds the record as the SECNAV with the most wins against Army in the annual Army-Navy football game? Now to be fair, the Army-Navy football matchup didn’t begin until 1890, so Secretaries Smith, Welles, and Robeson didn’t have the pleasure of holding bragging rights over Army in this annual affair. But even Daniels in his time as SECNAV can only claim a 2-6 record against Army, when Navy won 6-0 in 1919 and 7-0 in 1920.
With the Army-Navy game just around the corner, we can’t help but compare historical records here – so let’s take a deeper look at the run Secretary Mabus is on.
Mabus once said, “To fight and win, we need a force that draws from the broadest talent pools.” How’s that for a line from a motivating pre-game pep talk? But he gets it—our force, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, needs a team of diverse, innovative thinkers, who can grow both personally and professionally in a supportive environment. So, he’s made some changes around the force. The good of the team rests in the health and training of its players, so Mabus instituted the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative to ensure quality of life and physical and mental readiness for Sailors and Marines and their families. For example, the tuition assistance program has been revamped to allow more opportunities for higher education. Also, maternity leave has been tripled from six weeks to 18 weeks, and Child Development Center hours have been extended by two hours on each side to support growing families.
A good coach doesn’t leave his team ill-equipped, and to be victorious on the battlefield means we have to be ready to fight. “To be where we are needed, when we are needed, we must have the ships, submarines, aircraft, vehicles, and equipment for our Sailors and Marines to operate,” Mabus said. In his first five years as SECNAV, the Navy went from building less than five ships per year to having more than 70 under contract—an average of 14 ships per year. That’s as exciting as the unveiling of Navy’s new uniforms for the rivalry game!
Football rivalries are a fun, motivating way to get everyone involved in “the fight” but what it really comes down to is that both sides build a lasting partnership because, in the end, we’re all on the same team. That goes for Army and Navy, of course, but extends around the world to our allies, as well. “Central to our future success is the Navy and Marine Corps’ long history of lasting partnerships across the planet,” Mabus said. In visiting 143 countries and territories and traveling more than 1.1 million miles, Mabus maintains and develops international relationships with our “teammates” and visits our Sailors and Marines forward deployed or stationed around the world—“America’s Away Team.”
It’s hard to score a public servant’s contributions, but it’s fair to say that the winning record of SECNAV Mabus makes him a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.