Our country has a strong, good Navy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.” Those were the words of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, but they hold true today. One of the keys to peace and stability in the world is a strong naval fleet.

I recently had the opportunity to travel with the U.S. Navy to observe the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval training exercise in the Pacific Ocean. RIMPAC is the largest naval exercise in the world and involves navies from nations all around the Pacific Ocean.

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This year saw the largest cohort of nations participating with 25 navies taking part and six others observing. There were approximately 45 surface ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft and 45,000 personnel. The U.S. had the largest presence with 23 ships.

Russia was not invited to this year’s exercise, but they were there nonetheless. Russia had several ships in the area “observing,” even though they were not invited to participate or observe.

The participating navies did preparation on shore and at dock together, and then went to sea exercising everything from humanitarian operations to submarine rescue to surface, anti-submarine and naval air warfare.

The highlight of RIMPAC for me was getting to visit the USS Coronado, a Mobile-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), at sea. RIMPAC served as the “coming out party” of sorts for the Austal USA ship, and it is safe to say that everyone was impressed.

From the Chief of Naval Operations to the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, to the Commander of the USS Coronado, everyone I talked to raved about the LCS’s performance and capabilities. It really gave me such pride to know the ship was built by the hardworking people of Alabama.

While on the Coronado, I actually had the opportunity to drive the ship. As someone who grew up driving boats on Mobile Bay, it was really something to drive such a large vessel. Most impressive, the LCS can get up to around 38 knots, or 42 miles per hour, and it can turn on a dime.

In addition to visiting the LCS, our group also paid a visit to the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier. There is nothing quite like landing and shooting off an aircraft carrier. It is a truly unique experience.

While on the ship, I was able to eat lunch with some service members from Alabama. I was excited to meet Deshundra Taite from Monroeville. Seeing people from Southwest Alabama reminded me just how small the world really is.

I asked the sailors I met if they had anything I needed to know or anything I could do for them. One of them made a pretty powerful statement. She said to remind the American people how hard it is for our service members to be away from their families and loved ones for so long. It was a powerful reminder about service and sacrifice.

We also had the opportunity to visit a submarine, a fuel storage facility, the Pacific Command headquarters, and the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. All were very impressive and helped me better understand the U.S. Navy.

I returned back to my home on Mobile Bay exhausted, but all the more impressed by the quality of technology and individuals who make up the Navy. As a laid down that night, I was able to sleep soundly knowing the U.S. Navy patrols the world’s seas assuring our freedom and safety.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.