Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
USS John Finn (DDG 113) Commissioning Ceremony
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
July 15, 2017
Thanks, Notso. One can never be sure what a fighter pilot is going to say when he's in a position to introduce a P-3 Naval Flight Officer, so thanks for the great introduction. And thanks for the keys to this new ship! It even has that new ship smell!
I’m honored to join Admiral Swift and our other guest speakers,
Councilman Anderson, Mr. Cuccias, Secretary Dee, and Admiral Galinis to the podium. Thank you all for your inspirational remarks. Being the last speaker today, I know all the good things have been said and the only thing keeping you from the reception is, well, me. So I’ll get to it so the festivities can begin. But before starting, I’d like to recognize:
The family of Lieutenant John Finn, including his son Joe, and more than 50 relatives who are here for this momentous occasion.
This ship definitely got a winner in having Laura Stavridis as the sponsor. I’ve been fortunate to know Laura and her husband Admiral Jim Stavridis for decades. Admiral Stavridis once wrote a book called ‘The Accidental Admiral.’ But anyone who knows Laura knows she’s really the reason he was really ‘The Inevitable Admiral’.
Mr. Cuccias, and all our industry partners in attendance, thank you very much for delivering such an awesome ship. Folks, American industry builds great ships – the best in the world. Consider for a moment that the last captain of this ship is yet to be born. Now that is a return on investment for the American taxpayer.
State and city leaders... esteemed members of our consular and diplomatic corps.
Admirals Fargo and Grocki, Captain Kearns and everyone on the Commissioning Committee: thank you for crafting such a beautiful ceremony. On behalf of Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley and our CNO Admiral Richardson, ‘Bravo Zulu’ -- well done!
Fellow Flag and General Officers, active and retired… and a special shout out to Admiral Greenert, Admiral Macke and Admiral Stavridis, and General Bramlett.
Distinguished guests, and, most importantly, Captain Mike Wagner and the crew of the about-to-be commissioned – as soon as I stop talking – USS John Finn. Welcome to Pacific Command!
Ladies and gentlemen, the Navy has a glorious history of naming ships after heroes and epic battles, where women and men rose above themselves to join a pantheon of legends who defended our country, often giving their last full measure. Medal of Honor recipient John Finn’s gallant deeds here on Oahu 75 years ago are part of that milieu.
Now, I’ll pause for a quick second to say that I don’t know what milieu means, but it sounds French, and if you use a French word every now and then, people think you’re polished and sophisticated, and they pay attention.
Anyway, John Finn’s milieu was Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, just over those mountains. And as history tells us, on the morning of December 7th, 1941, then-Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Finn leaped to action, as wave after wave of Imperial Japanese planes attacked that airfield. Finn manned a .50-caliber machine gun and, despite being wounded over 20 times, he continued to take the fight to the enemy for over two hours, until the attacks ended.
Folks, there are a lot of colorful quotes from John Finn himself about his experiences on that ‘Day of Infamy’ and I’ve been advised not to use any of them because I can't say 4-letter words in public.
Fortunately, I found one repeatable sentence, where he said, quote:
“Of course I got the hell shot out of me, but it didn’t kill me. And if you ain’t dead, you can still manage.” Unquote.
Now, those are the words of a Chief Petty Officer -- tough, practical, and strong as the steel in this gleaming ship behind me.
Thankfully, America has always been blessed to have strong women and men who find the will, and summon the courage, to endure against overwhelming odds -- patriots like John Finn, who answered the call to defend our nation in her darkest hour.
As we gather today, I can’t think of a more fitting place to commission this ship than right here at Pearl Harbor, where we can honor the legacy of John Finn and all Americans from the ‘Greatest Generation’ and reflect on the blessings and the costs of liberty.
With today’s commissioning, the gallantry of John Finn is rekindled – once again lighting the way to inspire the men and women who serve aboard this warship to do as he did – to ‘stand fast and fight’!
That’s the ship’s motto -- Status et Pugno. But I prefer, simply,
‘Pugno, Pugno, Pugno.’ That’s Tennessee Latin for, ‘We’re ready
to fight, to fight, and to fight.’
Coincidentally, the PACOM mission statement is ‘be ready to fight tonight.’ So I predict this ship and this crew will fit in just fine here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, a region inextricably linked to America’s future security and economic prosperity.
Indeed, America is a Pacific nation, a Pacific leader, and a Pacific power. Always has been and always will be. We believe in peace through strength – smart power backed by hard power. And this ship, hard power personified, sends a clear signal to our allies, to our friends and to our adversaries that we will remain laser focused on the Indo-Asia-Pacific because what happens here matters to the United States.
That’s why we’re sending our best people and our best platforms to this region – like the John Finn. This is the first new construction ship built from the keel up with the Aegis Baseline 9 Weapon System. Now, I’m not much of a tech guy – I even wear an analog watch.
Fortunately, my outstanding aide, LCDR Adrienne Roseti, is a destroyer driver. She explained to me that the Baseline 9 is the ‘sine qua non’ of combat systems that allows this ship to simultaneously conduct air warfare and ballistic missile defense.
Adrienne, sine qua non … really?
For my simple mind, that means that John Finn brings both the saber and the shield to the fight. American know-how to 'git-r-done' anytime, anywhere. Truly, the advanced combat systems in John Finn, coupled with the innovative spirit and the killer instinct of her amazing crew, are powerful reminders of our readiness to fight tonight. This warship is the embodiment of America’s resolve to protect our homeland and defend our allies.
Now, I’ve been accused of having an insatiable appetite for stuff -- more ships, more subs, more planes, more battalions -- more stuff to fight the many forces of darkness in my neighborhood. Forces like North Korea, a nation ruled with an iron fist by a reckless dictator. To that, I’ll simply say ‘guilty as charged.’
As long our Commander-in-Chief and the American people have an insatiable appetite for security, I have an insatiable appetite for the tools to underwrite that security – to deter, to dissuade and, if necessary, to defeat and to destroy our adversaries. Make no mistake, capabilities like the magnificent machine behind me will do just that.
When I visit our friends, our partners and allies around the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, I’ll be proud to point to this ship as yet another example that America remains as committed as ever to this vital region.
In my opinion we can’t get our most advanced assets here fast enough. As North Korea’s recent ICBM test demonstrates... as Chinese and Russian aggressiveness grows... as ISIS tries to gain a foothold in our region, USS John Finn couldn’t come to the Indo-Asia-Pacific at a more pivotal moment in our nation’s history.
Folks, make no mistake about it. While this is a Navy ceremony, and this is a Navy day, we now live in a world where we must learn, think, and fight Jointly – and rightfully so. So today, we go back to the roots of not only America’s Navy, but of our Marine Corps, our Army and Air Force, as we take special note of what lies at the very core of the Joint Force, the continuing recognition – indeed, celebration -- of who we are and what we value as military leaders: the absolute nature of accountability, the science of command, and the art of leadership.
Captain Wagner, yours is an awesome responsibility. I know you will not take this duty lightly.
And to the Sailors who are about to bring this ship to life, I’ll remind you that the United States is defined by her storied past and invigorated by her boundless future. Be emboldened by the Greatest Generation, who placed our country’s interest above their self-interest. Rise to meet today’s challenges to liberty and freedom, for you are the Next Generation upon which America's future depends.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is indeed a thrilling and historic day. USS John Finn is about to join the Pacific Fleet and the Joint Force. This ship and her crew are ready to sail into harm’s way and assume the critical mission of safeguarding our nation’s interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The ship's name is fitting, for the best joint fighting force the world has ever seen exists today because of the men and women who did their duty, right here on this island, 75 years ago.
So I’ll close by reminding you that although Lieutenant John Finn and most from the Greatest Generation are no longer with us, we can still hear their stories of duty, of honor and of courage. Their spirits walk amongst us, and with us, and call to us still. Today, we’ve answered that call with a mighty warship bearing a legendary fighting name – a tribute to their heroic actions that will never be forgotten.
May God bless all of you. May God bless the Sailors – present and future – who will man USS John Finn. And may God bless the United States of America, which has always been and forever shall be, the home of free and the land of the brave. Thank you very much.