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Mullen Relieves Clark as Chief of Naval Operations

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050722-18
Release Date: 7/22/2005 5:44:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Hendrick L. Dickson, Navy News Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Adm. Michael G. Mullen relieved Adm. Vern Clark as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) during a Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., July 22.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, and military and Navy leaders from around the world witnessed Mullen officially assuming duties as the U.S. Navy’s senior Sailor and Clark completing 37 years of Navy service.

Mullen, a native of Los Angeles, becomes the 28th Chief of Naval Operations. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968.

Mullen said that during his Navy tour he has learned a lot of lessons from the fleet, with the Sailors. It is with those lessons in mind that he plans to lead the Navy in the future.

"It is out there, in the fleet, at sea with Sailors that I fell in love with the Navy," said Mullen in his first speech as CNO. "It was there I learned the most valuable lessons of life and leadership. There I learned that with every great opportunity comes an even greater obligation – to listen, to learn and to lead."

“Listen, learn and lead! Those will be my watchwords these next four years – a challenge to myself and to all of you. Given the world around us, the threats we face, we have no choice."

Mullen praised his predecessor for leading the Navy over the last five years and positioning the fleet to succeed. He expressed to his Sailors that it is up to them to continue to build on those successes.

"Adm. Clark put us in a position of enormous strength," said Mullen. "He took this Navy to a point - reformed us to a point - where we can now make decisions we simply couldn't make before."

"What we do with that strength, the kind of Navy we build and put to sea in the future, is entirely up to us. The tiller is in our hands," Mullen emphasized.

Clark first assumed duties as CNO in July 2000. During his tour, Clark led the Navy and its Sailors through a period of global change that marked the beginning of the war on terrorism. Clark implemented programs and transformed the Navy to help meet the challenge of those changes, effectively enhancing the fleet’s flexibility and creating a more responsive force.

“Today, the Navy is bringing incredible firepower around the world, every day, around the clock,” said Rumsfeld during his introductory remarks. “The programs that [Clark] has championed creates sustained striking power around world on short notice - including expeditionary strike groups, Sea Power 21, the SSGN and Fleet Response Plan.”

“We’ve already benefited from these innovations,” continued Rumsfeld. “The Navy was on station in the Arabian Sea within hours of the attacks on Sept. 11. And today Sailors are on the front lines of our country's defense, and they contribute to a wide range of efforts, including, if one thinks about it, to the rapid life-saving work of the tsunami relief in South Asia. Vern Clark will be remembered for his vision, his courage in fashioning and transforming a service steeped in over two centuries of tradition – no easy task.”

During Clark’s final address as CNO, he expressed his pride to the numerous guests in attendance and recognized the Sailors he has served alongside during his career.

“I am so thankful for the doors that have opened to me in the past 37 years, and I am honored to count myself among the thousands of Sailors who wake up each morning to try to make a difference, and make our Navy a better place," Clark said. "There is no better feeling in the world.”

“I have come to believe that the sum of all we are, and all that we can ever be, is founded in our shared beliefs,” continued Clark. “They are the hallmarks of our Navy institution; in biased view, the greatest Navy in the history of the world - the Navy I dearly love.”

Clark also reassured his Sailors that they are in good hands, as he expressed confidence in Mullen's ability to lead the fleet forward.

“I am being relieved today by an inspired leader in our profession,” said Clark. “He has excelled in command at every level in this Navy of ours, and he will serve our Navy and our nation well as the Chief of Naval operations."

Mullen has commanded Cruiser Destroyer Group 2 and the USS George Washington (CVN 73) battle group. Mullen’s last command at sea was as Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet/Commander, NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic.

His most recent operational assignment was Commander, Joint Force Command Naples/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, where he had operational responsibility for NATO missions in the Balkans, Iraq and the Mediterranean, as well as providing overall command, operational control and coordination of U.S. Naval forces in the European Command area of responsibility.

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