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Highlight: SECNAV CELEBRATES THANKSGIVING WITH AMERICA AND 15TH MEU
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks to Sailors and Marines during all hands call in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship USS America during his visit on Thanksgiving Day. America is the flagship for the America Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.(Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps)
ARABIAN GULF – The Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer conducted his first holiday visit to the deployed Marines and Sailors of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23.
While aboard the ship, Spencer conducted an all-hands call where he addressed his priorities while speaking to the Marines and Sailors. He reminded everyone aboard that people, capabilities, and processes are what enable the Department of the Navy to provide maritime dominance and power projection in an uncertain age, and that it is the individual Marine or Sailor who will improve the processes to meet future challenges.
“You are what makes [this ship] an effective weapon,” he said. “You are what sharpens the pointy end of the spear, and it’s because of you that this works … we become a quick thinking organization and punch way above our weight to increase our capabilities.”
He also expressed his deepest gratitude for everyone’s service especially over the holidays.
“One of the jobs [my wife] and I have back home is to make sure the civilian world knows what their Navy-Marine Corps team is doing,” said Spencer. “Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I think this just epitomizes [your efforts].”
Before wrapping up the all-hands call, the Secretary’s wife spoke with the Marines and Sailors.
“As a mom, I wish I could hug you all and say happy Thanksgiving,” said Polly Spencer as she thanked the service members for their sacrifices being away from family.
Spencer conducted a mass reenlistment and fielded questions from the crowd ranging from his thoughts on the future of information and cyber warfare to expressing his excitement about being back with his old helicopter squadron.
During his service in the Marine Corps, the secretary served as an H-46 pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161, the Marine Corps’ first tactical helicopter squadron, which was converted to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 when the MV-22B Osprey became operational in 2009. VMM-161 is currently the Aviation Combat Element for the 15th MEU and is reinforced with additional AV-8B Harriers, CH-53E Super Stallions, UH-1Y Hueys and AH-1Z Cobras.
“It’s a big honor to have the SECNAV come visit us on Thanksgiving,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Louis Espinoza, one of the Sailors that reenlisted. “But it’s an even greater honor to be reenlisted by him.”
Immediately following the all hands call, Spencer and his wife met with the food service division on the junior enlisted mess deck and began serving the Thanksgiving meal to Sailors and Marines.
The meal was served with all the usual Thanksgiving trimmings on one of the largest scales imaginable. The entrée consisted of 540 pounds of turkey, 520 pounds of baked spiral ham and 500 pounds of prime rib, while accompanied with a variety of side dishes and eggnog to drink.
“We’ve been preparing and planning all week for this event,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Rose Fennel, a member of the ship’s food service division. “We started with thawing out frozen items a few days ago, and we started cooking at 5:30 a.m. to make this big beautiful Thanksgiving feast for the crew.”
After the SECNAV and his wife served turkey onto each passing plate, he sat down with the crew and shared the special meal with them.
Following the meal Capt. Joseph Olson, America’s commanding officer accompanied by the MEU commander and the America Amphibious Ready Group commodore, gave a tour of the ship to SECNAV and his wife. The SECNAV saw the ship’s bridge, medical bay, and several tactical spaces to include the landing force and the joint operations centers.
“We’re honored to have our Secretary on board today, and although we will not be with our families this holiday season, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving together as the America family,” said Olson. “Today we have the watch.”
America is the flagship for the America Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
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