May 23, 2007 Tribute To Our Troops
By Adm. Mike Mullen
If you ask a Navy Seabee serving in Joint Task Force Horn of Africa what it is he or she is building over there, the answer you get back might surprise you.
Sure, they are building schools and roads and wells. They are building hospitals and power stations. They work hard every day to build the sort of infrastructure and support mechanisms that enable local governments to stand on their own two feet.
But mostly, I think the Seabees would tell you they are building friendships. They are building trust.
“There is an atmosphere of distrust and dislike towards Americans,” writes Lt. Ben Miller, a Seabee serving with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 at JTF-HOA, “when in fact there is merely a misunderstanding between cultures. If everyone took the time to learn more about other cultures, you will find you can form long-lasting, positive impressions that will shape our future … Simple acts like having an English conversation with the locals, playing soccer, or community service projects go a long way to foster good will.”
In a nutshell, that’s really our mission in the Horn of Africa — fostering good will while providing a safe, secure and healthy environment in which people can raise their children. Trust is essential to that mission. It’s essential to all our missions all around the globe.
In the Navy, it’s a big part of who we are. It’s what we do.
Trust is what we offered our friends and allies in the Arabian Gulf when we sent a second aircraft carrier there. It’s what we’re planting with our Iraqi partners when we help them secure their oil platforms offshore or patrol the Euphrates River up near the Haditha Dam.
Trust is what we share when we tell our brothers and sisters in the Army and Marine Corps that we are going to pitch in and help them out on the ground, and then we do it. It’s what our Explosive Ordnance Technicians spread when they find and disable an IED, or what our SEALs place in each other during the fiercest of firefights.
Trust is a Corpsman racing to a fallen comrade … a helicopter crewman rescuing a flood victim. It’s a big white hospital ship steaming back to Bandah Aceh to show the people of Indonesia we still care. It’s a warship cruising off the coast of a troubled nation, or a Global Fleet Station offering training and medical treatment to our South American neighbors.
Trust is the engine that literally runs the global maritime partnerships of the “1,000-ship Navy.” It’s a smile and a handshake, but it can also be the clenched fist of an angry nation at war.
Trust tells you — or it should tell you — that America won’t be cowed by aggression and terror and ballistic missile threats.
We’ll be ready to counter them. It tells you we take very seriously our responsibility to keep open the world’s sea lanes for the peaceful productive flow of commerce. It tells you — or should tell you — that the U.S. Navy is a warfighting, seagoing service, and we are ready in all respects to stay that way.
When you think about it, trust is probably the most valuable commodity in this flat, globalized world of ours. I like to refer to it as the “coin of the realm.” And yet that coin is best invested on a one-to-one basis, just like Lt. Miller does in Africa.
As Stephen M. R. Covey put it in his new book, The Speed of Trust, “When you build trust with one, you build trust with many.”
That’s exactly what your Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are out there doing every day on your behalf. All of them are rightly proud of the difference they are making.
On this Memorial Day, as we pause to remember those who sacrificed their lives for this country, I hope we also pause to remember the sacrifices our servicemembers are making as they build trust with millions of people around the world, one person at a time.
I’ve been in this outfit nearly 40 years. I’ve never served with a finer group of men and women. They and the extraordinary families who support them are the best I have ever seen … trust me. Mullen is chief of naval operations.