HONOLULU - Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised and thanked the Navy League and its Honolulu Council leadership at the council's 2014 annual meeting and elections dinner Jan. 23.
The dinner brought together Navy League members, spouses of the USS Houston crew, wounded warriors and VIPs such as retired admirals Dick Macke and John Bird and their wives, and Capt. Jim Hickerson, a Vietnam prisoner of war, and his wife Carole.
"Tonight is so important," Girrier said. "It's an opportunity to recognize just a few of the many things the Honolulu Council Navy League has done to support the Sailors of the Pacific Fleet and to thank Dave Livingston, president for the past two years, for his leadership."
"Tonight represents a passing of the leadership torch where we welcome the new president of the Honolulu Council Navy League, Carl Devoe," Girrier said.
Devoe, a retired Navy captain., joins a list of council presidents that dates back to 1955.
"Our mission is to provide support to the sea services and I will continue to uphold that tradition," Devoe said. "We are going to be adopting the various destroyers. I hope to start an endowment program to help fund what we do over the years and continue all the programs that we have in place, which is a very busy schedule."
As the largest and most active Navy League chapter in the world, the Honolulu Council has sponsored many events through the years.
"Whether it was recognizing our Sailors returning from deployments to foreign lands as Individual Augmentees, or hosting our Sailor of the Year recognition ceremony, or those inspiring exhibition games for our wounded warriors, the appreciation concerts, hosting the annual Navy Ball, or simply meeting ships pulling in from deployment and taking care of our Sailors, you have played an important role in not only maintaining, but strengthening the bond between our Navy, the sea services and the Navy League," Girrier said. "Once again, thank you for all that you have done."
He said Hawaii plays a key role in the U.S. rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, citing the state's diversity and innovation, presence of major facilities and command infrastructure, and ideal location for interaction with regional partners.
"All of this makes a great foundation for Hawaii to build upon, and I know that leaders like you will continue to get the word out as we work to sustain Hawaii's prominence throughout the rebalance," Girrier said.
The responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the global maritime domain often falls to the Navy and to the Pacific Fleet. For over seven decades, the U.S. has maintained a continuous and robust presence in the Western Pacific, he added.
"Each of you in this room also plays a key role, not just in your support of the sea services, but as business leaders and influencers," Girrier said. "We rely on each of you to get the word out, spread our message and make sure that leaders understand the opportunities for each of us to be a part of the rebalance."
By 2020, 60 percent of the U.S. Navy will be in the Pacific and many forces will be completely modernized. The rebalance is already underway, with strategic actions such as completion of the maiden deployment in the Western Pacific by the Navy's first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), the recent deployment of the first P-8 Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft squadron and new MH-60 "Romeo" helicopters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe Bay to provide significant improvement to anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
The U.S. Navy routinely engages in bilateral exercises and multilateral exercises to strengthen interoperability with the navies of nations throughout the region. Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 exercise will be held in Hawaii this summer and will be the largest ever in its 42-year history with 23 participating nations to include for the first time Brunei and China.
"In just a few days, seven Hawaii-based MIDPAC ships, along with P-3s and H-60s from Kaneohe Bay will get underway to support exercise Koa Kai as they prepare for their future deployments," Girrier said. "For those of us in uniform who go to sea, who go forward and deploy around the world, the support of the Honolulu Council Navy League and like-minded organizations (are) key to our strength," he said. "You're all patriots in my book. Your support and your advocacy for our young men and women of the armed forces is important to us. I know that you don't do it for any measure of personal glory but simply because you believe in our people, our mission and our nation, and I thank you."