Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Oct. 15, 2018 —
Officers and sailors stood in formation along the staircase leading into the McNamara Headquarters Complex cafeteria where HQC tenant organizations celebrated the Navy’s 243rd birthday Oct. 11.
Defense Logistics Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams yielded to DLA Land and Maritime Commander Rear Adm. John Palmer as guest speaker for the event.
Palmer expounded on the meaning of this year’s theme, “forged by the sea.”
“I think it means in our Navy, that the sailors you see here and around the world are challenged, molded, hardened and sharpened by what they experience at sea,” he said.
He described the physical rigors of sailors climbing the mast lines several times an hour to adjust the sails during the Navy’s formative years.
“It was also dangerous work because they were operating without a net on pitching decks — and then you throw in combat,” Palmer said. “We have often said, sailors mean more than guns … it’s still true today.”
Palmer said sea duty remains the method of sailors and officers “comparing stripes” — bonding over where they’ve been and how long they’ve served.
“It’s a matter of pride; it’s how we are forged by the sea,” he said. “It [represents] long days, arduous work and an industrial environment where a moment of distraction can absolutely result in injury and death — and unfortunately, it sometimes does — but that’s the life we lead.”
Palmer said contrasting all the hard work and sacrifice, sailors forge strong relationships with each other.
“That’s the thing that keeps you coming back time after time when you’re [deploying], balancing family and work — you’ve got your shipmates to sustain you and that’s for a lifetime, not just while you’re in the Navy,” he said.
Naval personnel still serve at sea, but they also provide a global presence, the admiral said.
“Under the sea, in the air, downrange, deserts and in the jungle — your Navy dominates in all domains,” Palmer said. “It’s not only a function of us preparing in peace for potential war, but we sail in peace for the very survival of our nation.”
He noted that the U.S. Constitution made provision to maintain naval forces, and the Navy has been in good standing for 243 years.
But even with various technological advances throughout the years, the armed forces would be nowhere without logistics, Palmer said.
“Logistics is our nation’s strategic advantage … that’s what you do,” he said to the audience. “As we celebrate the Navy’s birthday, your hearts should beat with justifiable pride that you, DLA, provide an absolutely vital element that allows our Navy to be the very best.”
Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic, Commander of Naval Supply Systems Command and Chief of Supply Corps provided closing remarks. As a DLA alumna, having served at DLA Aviation and as Commander of DLA Land and Maritime, she praised the agency’s support to the Navy.
“I was once asked by a leader, ‘what’s the magic of DLA?’ and I said, ‘I don’t have that 30-second elevator speech, but my hip shot is it’s the people, and the fact that they ‘get it,’” she said.
“You know that you are delivering readiness and logistics to every warfighter around the globe … when and where necessary.”
Skubic said another part of DLA’s “magic” is the “mastery of the machine.”
“You are using your technology for the better of all the services,” she said, noting posture is another key element. “Where we’ve put the people, where we’ve put the stock or where we’ve devised solutions.”
Finally, Skubic expressed appreciation to all DLA “shipmates.”
“Thank you for keeping the Navy ready to go where and when called, whether it’s a fight or a crisis,” she said. “I am 100 percent sure that DLA will be standing side-by-side with the Navy for another 243 years.”
The celebration concluded with the audience singing the Navy song and the oldest and youngest sailors joining the speakers and DLA Director for the traditional cake cutting.