By Vice Adm. William Hunter Hilarides
Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command
On Monday, September 16, 2013, our lives were forever altered when we lost twelve members of our Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Family. They were not just our friends and coworkers, but fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, all taken from us too soon.
Demonstrated that day was not just unbelievable evil, but also incredible bravery and selflessness. In the past few months we’ve gathered together on two separate occasions to recognize our coworkers for their courageous actions that day. As I shook their hands, I came to a conclusion – There is no stereotypical hero. Men and women, tall and short, middle-aged and millennial, people of all races and creeds were rightfully cited for acts of heroism. The diversity of the recipients reflects our organization. Their bravery and dedication, too, reflects NAVSEA.
NAVSEA is not just a bunch of offices and people; we’re a family. And, just as families come together to celebrate in times of joy, they also come together to aid one another in times of need and over the past year I have been heartened beyond words to see our people come together to support one another. The road to recovery has not been easy, but we’re on the right path and more importantly we’re not alone on that path.
In the face of tragedy, NAVSEA continued to operate – dispersed, in pain, in shock, but not once did we falter in our mission to support the Fleet. Despite having to work out of temporary spaces up and down the East coast, we continued to support the fleet: USS Coronado (LCS 4) was delivered; the Navy awarded a contract to build the Air Missile Defense Radar(AMDR); USS Somerset (LPD 25) completed Acceptance Trials with no starred cards and was delivered in October 2013; in November, North Dakota (SSN 784), the latest of the Virginia-class of nuclear-powered attack submarines was christened and the first of its class aircraft carrier, Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), was christened; USS America (LHA 6) completed builder’s trials that month and completed Acceptance Trials in February. Since January, we’ve started fabrication on one submarine, laid the keel on five ships, christened two ships, delivered three ships, commissioned four ships, and awarded two large contracts, including the largest-ever Navy shipbuilding contract for 10 VIRGINIA Class submarines.
On this day, we must remember the men and women we lost: Michael Arnold, Martin Bodrog, Arthur Daniels, Sylvia Frasier, Kathleen Gaarde, John Johnson, Frank Kohler, Mary Knight, Vishnu Pandit, Kenneth Proctor, Gerald Read, Richard Ridgell. They gave their lives for their country, their Navy, and their NAVSEA Family. We will forever remember their sacrifice and cherish their memory. And, we continue to offer our sympathies and thoughts to their families and loved ones.
As we remember those we lost, we also look forward to our continued recovery. In February we will reoccupy the Humphreys Building. The building is named after Joshua Humphreys, the designer of the first six frigates that shaped our country into a global power. This move back will mark a large step in our recovery, one that I welcome with open arms. We must continue to serve our country through our work. There are ships to be repaired and delivered; guns, missiles and radar to be fielded; and young people to be welcomed into our family. I am proud, honored, and humbled to be the Commander of this amazing organization.