Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
USPACFLT Change of Command Ceremony
Pier Kilo 8, Hawaii
May 17, 2018
Thanks, CNO, for those remarks – and for your exceptional leadership of America’s Navy.
It’s a privilege to be here today to honor two outstanding American patriots – and two personal friends: Scott “Notso” Swift and Chris “Lung” Aquilino – I think only Trish and Laura call them “Scott” and “Chris” by the way. These men have devoted their entire adult lives to serving our nation and our Navy. And I know that this is a proud day for their families and friends, too. Thank you all for being here.
Before getting started, I would also like to acknowledge:
- Governor Ige, Lt Governor Chin...
- Esteemed members of our consular and diplomatic corps…
- Generals Bramlett, Brown, O’Shaughnessy, and Stackpole, Admirals Huang, Macke, Murakawa, Sugimoto, and Zlatoper…
- Fellow Flag and General Officers…
- All the state, city, and community leaders here…
- Senior Enlisted Leaders, Distinguished guests…
Ladies and gentlemen, let me start by providing a heart-felt thank you to the women and men of Pacific Fleet for being where it matters, when it matters, and with what matters to decisively prevail in all contingencies from peace to war. Your efforts have advanced maritime security and enhanced stability – not only in the Indo-Pacific… but also the world. So let’s give these great American heroes a round of applause please.
Folks, today is a Navy day – make no mistake about it. For even though we now live in a world where we must think, learn, and fight jointly – and rightfully so – today, we go back to our roots and take special note of what lies at the very heart of our Navy: the exercise of command, the absolute nature of accountability… and the art of leadership.
You heard from the CNO about the importance of this ceremony and what it represents – so today I’d like to speak about the service of both Notso Swift and Lung Aquilino and the enormous contributions of United States Pacific Fleet to our nation’s defense.
From the time that Notso took the reins here in Hawaii, he set out to build a high performance organization. An organization that does what’s right for the right reasons. An organization that responds to our nation’s needs. An organization that adjusts to change on its own… with its eye on the future, even as it focuses on the mission at hand. An impressive endeavor for any new commander – especially considering the heavy cleanup required after his predecessor left the post!
Indeed, Notso is one of the most selfless, most professional, and most aggressive warriors I know. And for the past three years, he’s made immeasurable contributions to the defense of our nation.
And yet, he’d be the first to tell you what most solid leaders would: the true measure of any command’s success is not how well he or she performs, but how well the force performs. It’s how they step up during times of crises… and there have been no shortage of these across his watch with North Korea, China, Russia, and ISIS.
Despite these global challenges, America remains the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world. We owe a debt of gratitude to Admiral Swift and the extraordinary men and women of Pacific Fleet for preserving and advancing the international framework of norms, standards, rules, and laws.
Today, Pacific Fleet operates confidently across the region, as Sailors are empowered and incentivized to generate and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges. Indeed, they embrace the opportunity to project power from all domains. In fact, they've created the most lethal, agile, and responsive naval force the world has ever seen.
As commander of the world’s largest fleet command encompassing 100 million square miles – more than half the Earth’s surface – Admiral Swift led Pacific Fleet to unsurpassed levels of mission accomplishment and success. In fact, the only naval force more powerful than PACFLT is the entirety of the United States Navy itself.
Notso’s innovative leadership sent Third Fleet forward in the Indo-Pacific to fully leverage PACFLT power while complicating an adversary’s calculus for conflict. He did this under his own authority, neither requesting nor requiring permission from higher headquarters. This initiative resulted in a 3-ship Pacific Surface Action Group and 2 USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group deployments, completing high-end operations while embracing the opportunity to test the offensive concepts of distributed lethality. Today, independent single-ship deployers continue their consistent and routine presence under the Third Fleet Forward construct that Notso set in motion.
Another major initiative – Notso’s up-gunned Expeditionary Strike Group – integrated multi-mission surface ships and incorporated F-35B joint strike fighters. The result: more lethality, more broadly applied.
From freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in New Zealand, Notso was committed to upholding the free and open, rules-based, international system while deepening operational relationships with our allies and partners.
And for the first time in a decade, Notso directed tri-Carrier Strike Group operations with the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups in the Western Pacific, sending an important message of assurance and strength to the region. Because these strike groups are assigned to PACOM, PACFLT had the flexibility to task them as needed, and Admiral Swift did just that.
Folks, I could go on-and-on about how PACFLT has furthered national interests, strengthened relationships in the region, produced and developed combat capabilities, and ensured the readiness of the Fleet, but I’ll stop as I know you’d all rather hear from Notso than listen to me.
Ladies and gentlemen: successful organizations, led by competent leaders, succeed over and over again. People want to join high performance organizations, and people want to stay in them, too.
So it’s a great honor for me to publicly commend Admiral Swift for a spectacular tour. Mark Twain once said that there's nothing more irritating than a good example. Well, PACFLT has been doubly blessed with not one, but two good examples in Notso and Lung… back-to-back leaders whose characters are a credit to the United States Navy.
The soon-to-be – well, as soon as I stop talking – the soon to be new commander, Admiral Lung Aquilino, has a tremendous reputation as a warfighter and leader. Lung’s a fighter pilot with over 5,000 flight hours and 1100 arrested landings… deploying numerous times in Operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force, Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. So he has the experience to apply force from the sea.
In fact, American boots on the ground – in contact with the enemy – depended on him for support from above during these long deployments. He never let them down and I know that he won’t let any of us down. So he has the courage and focused aggression needed in this theater to deter those who would do us harm.
As the commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, he led coalition maritime operations throughout the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and North Arabian Sea… and most recently in Syria as the supported commander for last month’s missile strikes. And he also served as the Ops Boss at PACFLT, so he definitely has the world view needed to command naval power in the Indo-Pacific.
This killer combination -- experience, courage, focused aggression, and worldview will ensure PACFLT remains on step and on point in the years ahead.
Lung’s a Koa Mai Ke Kai, or warrior from the sea, who knows what our warfighters need when they are preparing to deploy in the service of our nation, and his history has prepared him well for this assignment. I have no doubt that he’ll also craft innovative planning options for one of the most challenging and dynamic areas of the world. He’s a natural fit to lead the 130,000 Sailors and civilians of Pacific Fleet, and we’re all lucky to have him back.
Alright folks, I’ve been up here awhile. As a speaker, I’ve had two consistent complaints from previous audiences. One, that I talk so loud they can’t fall asleep. And two, that I talk so long they can’t stay awake.
So let me close by simply saying thanks.
Notso, thanks for being a good friend and confidant over the years. You’ve been a tremendous leader and I look forward to hearing about your and Trish's next adventures in academia and beyond.
Lung, thanks for taking on the awesome responsibility of leading our Sailors in the Indo-Pacific. Lung and Laura...welcome home.
And finally, to the men and women of U.S. Pacific Fleet, thanks for everything you do to defend our homeland and advance our national interests. What you do on a daily basis matters to United States Pacific Command, to our allies and partners around the region, and to our nation.
May God bless all the Sailors serving in harm’s way across the globe. May God bless the Swift and Aquilino families. May God bless Hawaii... and may God bless the United States of America, which has always been – and forever shall be – the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Thank you very much.