As new tensions erupted around the globe, the Navy on Friday completed a scheduled change of command for its Atlantic fleet, making it clear that swapping admirals does not mean a break in continuity.
Adm. William E. Gortney assumed command of U.S. Fleet Forces, headquartered in Norfolk, in a formal ceremony that included a fond farewell to the retiring commander, Adm. John C. Harvey Jr.
The changeover, steeped in tradition, took place onboard the aircraft carrier USSHarry S. Truman, which was pier side.
In his welcoming remarks, Gortney referred to the Norfolk-based destroyers USS McFaul and USS Laboon, which have been dispatched to the Libyan coast in the face of anti-American protests that have since spread to nearly 20 countries. A contingent of U.S. Marines has also been dispatched to help protect the American embassy in Libya.
Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed in violence sparked by an obscure film made in the U.S. that is offensive to the Muslim world.
"The fact that our forward-deployed sailors and Marines are ready for tasking – that should not be lost on anyone," Gortney said.
Gortney is a former Navy pilot who logged more than 5,300 flight hours primarily in the A-7E Corsair II and today's workhorse of the fleet, the F/A-18 Hornet. The Truman was one of many ships he served on during his career.
Harvey later echoed Gortney's remarks when it came to the response in Libya.
"Our ships were on station. They were ready," he said. "What you saw this week happens around the world every single day."
Harvey said it didn't feel odd to end his 39-year career in a week when crises flared anew.
"I felt wonderful, because I knew that the forces we had forward were ready to go," he said.
The keynote speaker was Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the top uniformed officer in the Navy. Keeping with the ceremony's message, he focused on how the Navy must continue to meet ever-changing conditions.
"Adaptability is absolute in our service," he said. "It is the essence of being a sailor."
It also is the essence of the Navy's equipment, he said.
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise began its service in the early stages of the Cold War, its technical innards composed of vacuum tubes and analog dials. Now, nearing the end of its half-century life, it is supporting combat operations in Afghanistan from the Gulf of Oman, its aircraft flying 30 missions a day.
Other aircraft carriers will soon deploy unmanned strike aircraft, Greenert said. The latest unmanned drones are being launched from 25-year-old frigates, and unmanned underwater vehicles are operating from 25-year-old minesweepers.
"This adaptation requires a shorter period of time to get moving," he said. "In the world we live in, we don't have time like we had before . . . we're talking months, not years. And we have proven this can be done."