WASHINGTON (NNS) — The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic brought an invisible enemy to our shores and changed the way we operate as a Navy. The fight against this virus is a tough one. But our Sailors are tougher, and each of you plays a critical role in defeating this virus.
We have embraced the challenge of COVID-19 and are learning, adapting, and improving by the day and by the hour. There is no better example of this than our actions and response on the USS Kidd (DDG 100).
As we continue to learn about this virus and how to mitigate its risk, the widespread public health measures you are actively, practicing–physical distancing, face coverings, minimizing group events, frequent hand-washing, sound sanitation practices, a questioning attitude on how we are feeling – -must be our new normal. We must harden our Navy by continuing to focus on the health and safety of our forces and our families. The health and safety of our Sailors and their families is, and must continue to be, our number one priority. Fleet operations depend on it.
As the forward deployed force of our country, we have a duty to ensure we are ready to respond. We cannot simply take a knee or keep everyone in port until this enemy is defeated. We are America’s away team. The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 makes our mission of protecting America at sea more important than ever. That is why the U.S. Navy continues to operate forward every day.
As state and local officials begin to re-open communities, we must continue to focus on the health and safety of our Sailors and their families. It is vitally important for every individual to take personal responsibility to minimize risk to themselves, to their loved ones, as well as to the members of our team who may be more susceptible.
Each Fleet, region and installation will be on a conditions-based timeline to open. OSD and Service guidance will be released to assist Commanders in making these decisions. When we entered this pandemic, we quickly closed down services to minimize interactions and the spread of the disease. We will need to take a measured approach to opening up these services to prevent a recurrence of the disease. I expect local commanders to understand area conditions and to communicate prudent expectations and guidance up and down the chain of command. I trust our Sailors to follow these guidelines.
Each of us must continue to practice and follow all public health measures necessary to minimize risk to our force and our families. Take responsibility. Show courage in speaking up if you see shipmates falling short. We have obligations for operational readiness and stringent requirements for health protection measures.
Continue to gather lessons learned at all levels, and prepare for another wave of COVID so that we can minimize the impact and be prepared, if that happens.
While I know we are asking a lot of our Sailors and families right now, with measures such as extended deployments and pre-underway Restriction of Movement (ROM) periods, these sacrifices are necessary to maintain a healthy force around the world. I appreciate your commitment to selfless service.
I know our Sailors’ ability to adapt and respond has been nothing short of amazing and I am grateful. Your resiliency gives us all hope and assurance during these uncertain times.