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Fleet Commander Focuses on Hawaii's Strategic Importance

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080105-02
Release Date: 1/5/2008 10:17:00 AM

By Ensign Theresa Donnelly, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

WAIKIKI, Hawaii (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Robert F. Willard spoke about the strength of the Navy in the Pacific to Hawaii business leaders, state representatives, and other members of the Oahu community during the 7th annual Hawaii-U.S. Military Partnership Conference held in Waikiki Jan. 3.

The conference offered members of the Hawaii State Chamber of Commerce an opportunity to learn more about dynamic issues planned across the Pacific area of operations.

Willard emphasized Hawaii's importance as a military asset, in particular the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF).

"The strategic importance of the state of Hawaii hasn't changed in 65 years," said Willard. "It's important that the management of the shipyard workforce remain state of the art on this island and for the Pacific fleet."

PMRF recently conducted testing with the Japanese Defense Ship Kongo, which resulted in the successful SM-3 launch, a first for the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. The facility also works with Pearl Harbor-based ships that have capabilities to track and shoot down long-range ballistic missiles.

"That range plays a pivotal part and, like the shipyard, PMRF must remain state of the art on land, under the sea, and on the sea," said Willard.

Willard not only reflected upon the historic significance of Hawaii's military assets, but in his first address of 2008, he also emphasized its continued strategic importance to the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.

"I think you can be proud of your fleet, we are certainly proud of it, and proud of those Sailors, particularly individual augmentees and those that are serving in harm's way," said Willard. "We have to protect that water space for all that it represents in terms of our ability to train and exercise."

He also discussed this summer's Rim of the Pacific exercise, a large-scale tactical exercise designed to increase operational and interoperational ability and to test PMRF's warfighting capabilities with nearly a dozen other Pacific nations.

Willard was joined by other Hawaii military leaders from the Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and the National Guard. Each component leader discussed upcoming events taking place and held a brief question-and-answer session.

"It's important to hold these events each year and bring this type of information to the local businesses," said Larry Osborn, Northrop Grumman corporate lead executive. "It helps to foster a good working relationship between company leaders and the U.S. military."

For more news from the Pacific Fleet, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cpf/.

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