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CNO to destroyer crew: ‘I’ve got your back’

As part of a fleet visit to the Pacific Northwest, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson spent three hours aboard USS Gridley (DDG 101) Nov. 15, where he told the crew, “I’ve got your back.”

The CNO’s time aboard Gridley was his first visit to a surface combatant following the recent release of the findings from the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents.

“Getting out to the fleet is always a priority for me,” said Richardson. “Because I’m absolutely committed to breaking down barriers to success, these important visits give me the opportunity to hear directly from Sailors on how I can better support them, so that our Navy remains the most lethal force in the world.”

Richardson started his pierside visit by eating lunch with Sailors in the crew’s mess. Commanding officer Cmdr. Michael Mortensen then gave the CNO a tour of Gridley, which is currently in the maintenance phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan and will progress to basic phase training this spring.

The CNO then gathered with the crew to reenlist Chief Sonar Technician Mathew Cline, from Enid, Oklahoma; Fire Controlman (Aegis) 2nd Class Kevin Grenald, from Willingboro, New Jersey; and Damage Controlman 3nd Class Calli Cushing, from Vacaville, California.

“Most people don’t take many oaths in their lives, so it’s always an honor for me to do this and to emphasize that we all listen to the important words of this oath,” said Richardson. “Because families are an important part of our Navy team, it’s also great that the families of these terrific Sailors could join us today for this important moment.”

Crewmembers appreciated CNO’s visit to hear review recommendations firsthand and how they can help build the future of their Navy.

“I think it is great the CNO took time to visit the ship,” said Chief Quartermaster Shawn Wilson, a native of Stockton, California. “He used focus groups, with junior officers and chiefs, to see things from the deckplate leadership’s perspective. That type of feedback will be very beneficial towards making improvements in the long run.”

The CNO conducted focus group meetings with the Chiefs Mess and with the junior officers, where he discussed the need for a sense of urgency in swiftly implementing the findings of the Comprehensive Review.

“I got some terrific feedback from these Sailors,” said Richardson. “It was important for me to tell them directly that, ‘I’ve got your back.’ I have complete faith in the Surface Forces to make these changes and I am committed to providing the resources–the money, the equipment, the people–this community needs to ensure we retain the title of best Navy in the world.”

The CNO’s engagement comes on the heels of a visit by Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces last month to discuss Pacific Northwest maintenance and training support to the five Everett-based ships, as well as a review of specific actions taken across the fleet during the Navy-wide operational pause.

“It was a great pleasure to host the CNO,” said Mortensen. “The visit was an opportunity for my Sailors to provide feedback and see that senior leadership is committed to effective culture change in the Surface Forces.”

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