On the occasion of the 700th year anniversary of the Portuguese Navy, I was privileged to be in Portugal to personally offer my most sincere congratulations to Admiral Silva Ribeiro and the Armada Portuguesa for the rich heritage the entire Western world can celebrate.
What happened 700 years ago? The year was 1317. It was 250 Years after the Battle of Hastings and 250 years before the Battle of Lepanto. King Dinis signed a Royal Charter appointing Manuel Pessanha of Genoa as Admiral of the Kingdom of Portugal. This “Pessanha Contract” established a permanent Navy that sails the seas today.
I continue to be awed by Portugal’s Atlantic identity and maritime tradition. The intrepid Portuguese explorers and sea warriors from Bartolomeu Dias, to Vasco da Gama, to Fernão de Magalhães (a.k.a. Ferdinand Magellan) helped chart and shape our world. They forged free trade and global alliances. Without these courageous seafarers, the world would be a much different place.
In their spirit, courageous seafarers of Armada Portuguesa displayed professionalism and seafaring tradition during the Fleet Review and Military Ceremony. More than 40 Portuguese and foreign ships participated, including the USS Ross (DDG-71) from the U.S. Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Force in Rota, Spain. The ceremony included dignified remarks of the President of the Portuguese Republic and illustrated the national pride for the Navy. Additionally, based on my short discussions with the Portuguese Minister and Chief of Defense, I was exhilarated to hear of the mighty ambitions they have of returning to their roots in the Atlantic with the establishment of an Atlantic Security Center of Excellence to promote Maritime Domain Awareness throughout the vast shipping lanes that cross this ancient body of water. My team at Allied Joint Force Command Naples and U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa stands ready to support our friends and Allies in this worthy endeavor.
Today the Armada Portuguesa military operations are maintaining peace and security throughout the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Gulf of Guinea, Central Africa and other global regions and are part of the international coalition to defeat ISIS. Portugal, an original signatory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, graciously hosts the headquarters for Naval Striking and Support Forces (STRIKFORNATO). Responsible for command and control of NATO Maritime Ballistic Missile Defense forces, STRIKFORNATO is at the leading edge. As one example, earlier this year eight force contributing NATO Allies, 14 ships, more than 10 aircraft, and approximately 3300 personnel participated in FORMIDABLE SHIELD 17, an annual exercise series that improves interoperability with live-fire, integrated air and missile defense.
As I reflect on the Fleet Review, I am inspired by the opening stanza of The Lusiads by 16th Century poet Luís Vaz de Camões:
As armas e os barões assinalados,
Que da ocidental praia Lusitana,
Por mares nunca de antes navegados,
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados,
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram
Canto I – 1, Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões
Arms and the Heroes, who from Lisbon’s shore,
Through Seas where sail was never spread before…
…What wars they waged, what seas, what dangers passed,
What glorious empire crowned their toils at last!
Book 1 -1, The Lusiads by Luís de Camões, Translated by William Julius Mickle, 1776
We can all celebrate the historic and heroic spirit of Armada Portuguesa. As we sail from Camões’s shore over the horizon, together, as an alliance, we create a safe and secure maritime for all. #WeAreNATO