Kitchener, whose first visit to Norfolk in a year coincides with the loosening of many Navy-wide COVID-19 restrictions, first expressed gratitude for the leaders’ resilience and focus on being mission-ready throughout the pandemic.
"All your efforts on mitigating the effects of COVID-19 and making sure we were doing the right things ensured we never missed any deployments or exercises,” Kitchener said.
Kitchener then delved into the main points of his talk, where he focused on managing risk in underway commitments, and emphasized the importance of building a transparent and rules-based command culture where procedural compliance comes first.
“We have to cultivate an environment where Sailors know what right looks like, know what wrong looks like, and know they’re able to speak up,” said Kitchener.
He added that he would like to see more mishap reports from ships, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to share fumbles in the name of educating their peers and preventing similar cases from being repeated.
“You ought to be sparring and providing friction, having a robust discussion over ship requirements,” said Kitchener. “We cannot send ships that are not manned, trained and equipped to go out and complete a mission.”
Kitchener praised the commanding officers’ tenacity and dedication to their ships’ schedules, noting “can-do is good. A can-do attitude is something you never want to get rid of,” but cautioning that they should always “temper it with understanding risk.”
The vice admiral finished his talk by expressing pride for all the surface forces under his charge, saying “I haven’t been on a ship that I wouldn’t take command of at any time.”
In addition to speaking to waterfront leadership, Kitchener also toured USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and spoke to junior officers. Also on the agenda was a visit to the Aviation Maintenance Operations Center and the newly opened Surface Maintenance Operations Center.
SURFLANT mans, trains and equips assigned surface forces and shore activities, ensuring a capable force for conducting prompt and sustained operations in support of United States national interests. The SURFLANT force is composed of 77 ships, 14 pre-commissioning units, and 33 shore commands.
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