Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter paid a special visit to USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) June 2 as part of an extended tour of naval assets in the Southeast region.
The visit marked the Secretary’s first to the Mayport, Fla.-based aircraft carrier since being sworn into office Jan. 6.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to be here today,” said Winter, who is serving as the Nation’s 74th Secretary of the Navy. “I enjoy being at the Pentagon, but I’ve been trying to spend as much time as I can getting out and seeing firsthand all the great work the Navy/Marine Corps team is doing these days.”
Addressing Kennedy’s crew from one of the ship’s two hangar bays, Winter thanked the crew for its dedicated service in the face of continued uncertainty surrounding the storied carrier’s future. He said reaching a conclusion on the matter of what to do with JFK is one of his top priorities.
“This crew has obviously been doing a great job in terms of maintaining this fine ship,” said Winter, who had the opportunity to tour JFK while aboard. “I recognize there’s been a fair amount of deferred maintenance, but it’s quite evident how much this crew cares for this ship, and I really appreciate the efforts being made to that end.”
Winter reiterated the Navy’s position that its future can be best supported by an 11-carrier fleet, which will in turn provide both the presence and surge capabilities combatant commanders seek.
“It’s clearly the right thing to do,” said Winter. “We want to ensure that we’re taking care of our Sailors and Marines, and at the same time, we’re investing in our service’s future.”
Addressing how Naval Station Mayport fits into this increasingly complex puzzle, the Secretary said that the Navy plans to take a hard look at all the various options available, including relocating a nuclear carrier there.
“We’ve initiated a broad environmental impact study,” said Winter. “The goal is to get a plan in place that’s beneficial to both the Navy and Mayport as soon as we can.”
Before opening the floor to questions, Winter asked Sailors to be mindful of safety both on the job and at home. He said since he’s taken office there has been a sharp increase in safety-related incidents and fatalities.
“[Safety] is a big priority for me, and it should be for all of you,” said Winter as he surveyed the many young faces of those in attendance. “I ask that all work be conducted in a way which is consistent with proper safety for you and your shipmates.”
The Secretary also took time to remind Kennedy Sailors that hurricane season
is upon them, and that preparations need to be made in order to ensure the safety and well being of family members in the event a hurricane should strike the area.
Following his visit to Kennedy, Winter will attend the annual Battle of Midway Memorial Dinner held in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., where he is slated to be the guest speaker.
By Journalist 2nd Class (SW) Timothy Cox, USS John F. Kennedy Public Affairs