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American Forces Press Service

Navy Chief Visits Gulf, Listens to Sailors’ Concerns

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2012 – Sailors want Navy leaders to work on avoiding sequestration and improving deployment rhythms, the Chief of Naval Operations said during a telephone interview from Bahrain today.

Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert told reporters that his trip to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Gulf “is about listening and learning” from sailors.

Sailors are concerned about the possible impact of sequestration, Greenert said.

“It is difficult for our sailors … to digest what exactly happens if sequestration kicks in,” he said. “We talked about the fact that military personnel [accounts] are exempt. So they found that kind of encouraging. On the other hand, there are civilian personnel here and they are not exempt. Furloughs, early retirements are alternatives that are out there. We very much want the Congress to resolve this.”

Greenert was referring to massive, across the board cuts in federal spending that would take effect in January if Congress and the White House cannot come up with a plan to reduce the budget deficit by then.

Sailors are also concerned about deployments. “We need to look at the individual’s deployment tempo -- we call it I-tempo,” the admiral said.

For example, a petty officer who deploys with a ship works as part that ship’s operational tempo. But if that petty officer is reassigned to another billet, “and it is scheduled to deploy in a month, that ship’s operational tempo might be relatively low overall, but your individual tempo is high,” he said. “We need to measure tempo by individual and we can do that.”

Greenert will spend Thanksgiving with sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and the cruiser USS Hue City. He has already visited Djibouti. The admiral wants to find out what’s on sailors’ minds and hear their concerns.

The admiral said it’s important that he meets with sailors as they perform their work in theater.

Greenert said he’ll evaluate the sailors’ input and make adjustments as needed “to make sure they have the right tools, that they are proficient in what they are doing, that we prepared them well and that they are confident in their assignments and the things they have to do.”

In Djibouti, the admiral met with commanders and sailors assigned to Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa. He went over the various projects sailors are involved with, including humanitarian relief, disaster assistance and building partnership capacity.

“It’s really about synchronizing the effort in [U.S.] Africa Command throughout East Africa,” Greenert said.

The admiral moved on to the USS Mount Rushmore -- part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. The ship is working with the Kuwaiti navy and exercised with visit, board, search and seizure operations and convoying exercises. The ship and its sailors will be working with the Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates’ navies through the New Year, he said.

In Bahrain the admiral visited the USS Sentry, a mine countermeasures ship, and the USS Chinook, a patrol craft. The Chinook’s crew demonstrated the upgraded guns on the craft and Greenert called the Sentry’s crew “really a proud group.”

The ship joined 5th Fleet over the summer, and it participated in the international mine exercise. “They had the Sea Fox equipment being installed as I was there,” the admiral said. The Sea Fox is an unmanned underwater mine neutralization vehicle.

Reporters asked Greenert about the amphibious ready group steaming toward the eastern Mediterranean. The violence in Gaza necessitated moving the USS Iwo Jima, the USS Gunston Hall and the USS New York to the eastern Mediterranean and extending the group’s deployment. The Iwo Jima group will bring a wide-spectrum of capabilities, the admiral said.

“It’s tough to say what they could be used to do,” Greenert said. The group could be used for everything, he said, from power projection to maritime security to visit, board, search, seizure to noncombatant evacuation operations to just sea-control of the area.

“All of those capabilities exist and our job is to make sure we are up and ready if tasked,” Greenert said.

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