USS AMERICA -- The hangar bay of the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) stood quiet as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, standing beside the Honorable Michael Hammer, U.S. Ambassador to Chile, addressed hundreds of Marines and Sailors assigned to America and Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-South, during a visit aboard the ship in the Strait of Magellan, Aug. 19.
During his visit, Mabus held an all-hands call with Marines and Sailors, conducted several promotions, a reenlistment and attended a social event with the crew.
During the all-hands call, Mabus addressed Navy-Marine Corps topics and how he prioritizes his decision-making for the branches.
“When I think about the Navy and Marine Corps and how to organize it, I use four Ps; people, platforms, power and partnerships,” Mabus said. “All four of those, when you add them together, give the Navy and Marine Corps what they uniquely give the country, and that’s presence; being at the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time.”
Mabus dedicated time to answer questions from the Marines and Sailors on topics ranging from pay and benefits, to future deployments.
“I appreciated that the Secretary of the Navy was willing to address the questions of the Sailors and Marines, and saying that he would actually find the answers,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Huddleston, the logistics officer with SPMAGTF-South. “It was an opportunity for the bottom to go straight to the top.”
Mabus conducted a promotion and reenlistment ceremony at the beginning of his all–hands call. Hundreds of Marines and Sailors stood at attention in formation throughout the ceremony.
“It was a great honor and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have someone of such high rank and esteem promote me,” said Cpl. Carlton Mueller, a Marine with the Command Element of SPMAGTF-South, and a native of Dothan, Ala. “Being promoted by the Secretary of the Navy in the southern most point of South America was an extraordinary experience.”
Sergeant Maj. Wesley Schaffer, sergeant major of SPMAGTF-South, and a native Roanoke, Va., was reenlisted in the Marine Corps after 24 years of service by Mabus.
“It was the chance of a lifetime to be reenlisted by the Secretary of the Navy, in the Strait of Magellan, on USS America,” said Schaffer.
The ceremony and all-hands call were followed by an ice-cream social on the mess decks of the ship. Marines and Sailors spent the time with Mabus sharing stories and enjoying his company.
“It was very interesting,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Baldi, an operations Marine with SPMAGTF-South, and a native of Manalapan, N.J. “We talked about a lot of things like football, the countries he’s visited, where he’s going next and what the Marine Corps is doing as a whole.”
As the Marines and Sailors aboard America continue on the ship’s maiden transit, “America Visits the Americas,” they carry with them guidance and inspiration that Mabus left during his visit. The visit provided the service members with a reminder of the significance of the work they are doing during the transit. Through partnership activities, theater security events and key leader engagements, the transit aims to demonstrate the flexibility, utility and unparalleled expeditionary capability the Navy-Marine Corps team provides our nation and partners.