Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus met with Sailors stationed here as well as Marines assigned to Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Africa, June 17, during an all hands call.
During the gathering, Mabus addressed current world events, the defense budget and manning.
“To the Marines, I wanted to come to Sigonella to let you know just how crucial and important the work that you do is to the region and the world,” said Mabus. “You have the eyes of the world on you. You are America’s crisis response force.”
He also discussed the current stability in naval personnel.
“We have 324,200 Sailors right now,” Mabus said. “Five years from now, according to the president’s budget, we will have 324,800. We took a huge downsizing in the early 2000s, so we have no plans to cut Navy personnel right now.”
Mabus also discussed Marines going back to sea as the war in Afghanistan wraps up. “We are sending Marines back to sea as part of the Navy-Marine Corps team,” said Mabus. “We are building more amphibs that the Marine Corps will need in the next three years.”
One of Mabus’ largest priorities is building the Navy fleet back to pre-9/11 levels and getting the number of ships back over 300 by the end of this decade. “You need those big gray hulls on the horizon,” said Mabus. “We don’t just need to be in the right place at the right time, we need to be in the right place, all the time.”
SECNAV went on to discuss how his focus areas of people, platforms, power and partnerships support the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to maintain a worldwide presence.
“The Navy and Marine Corps team is the most formidable expeditionary fighting force our world has ever known,” said Mabus. “You do the most astounding work, you do it everywhere, you do it incredibly well, and on behalf of the greatest country on earth and our partnerships, friends and allies, I want to say thank you.”
When asked about tuition assistance (TA) following the all-hands call, Mabus dispelled a rumor that it would go away by the start of the next fiscal year.
“I haven’t heard that one before, but I can tell you we plan on keeping it at 100% and TA is pretty stable.”
After answering a few questions, Mabus took the time shake hands with Sailors and Marines in attendance and pose for photos.
Mabus’ stop in Sigonella was part of a multi-nation visit to the U.S. European and Africa Command areas of responsibility focused on reinforcing existing partnerships and visiting Sailors and Marines providing forward presence.
Press Release, June 18, 2014; Image: Wikimedia