ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK — Sailors are ready to enter a campaign unlike anything in the history of warfare, the top Navy commander in the Persian Gulf says.

“I believe that it’s coming,” Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, 5th Fleet commander, said in a brief visit on the aircraft carrier Wednesday.

“The men and women of the Kitty Hawk battle group are by God ready,” he said, drawing cheers from several hundred sailors gathered in the carrier’s hangar bay.

“I will make that report this afternoon” to Army Gen. Tommy Franks, overall commander of U.S. forces in the region, during their daily teleconference on the situation in Iraq. “I’m the guy signing that check. You are the guys who have to cash that check.”

Keating also visited sailors on two other aircraft carriers on Wednesday — the USS Constellation and USS Abraham Lincoln — saying he expects the campaign to start soon.

“I want to thank you for what you’re probably going to do,” Keating said told some of the Kitty Hawk’s 5,500 sailors. The crew has been at sea since leaving Yokosuka, Japan, on Jan. 20.

Keating said military forces will act with “almost eye-watering speed,” agility and precision never seen before.

“The plan is to reduce to an absolute minimum if not eliminate” civilian casualties, he said.

Keating’s visit was motivational, several sailors said.

“I’m glad he took the time to visit us,” said Seaman Christy Hollins, a personnelman.

“Everybody’s tired of waiting; it pepped everybody’s spirit,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Willie Adams, an aviation ordnanceman.

Seaman Joseph Locklear, an aviation boatswain’s mate, said the crew welcomed the admiral’s 10-minute speech, especially after nearly two months with no sign of land.

Keating’s remarks “make me want to get out of bed in the morning,” he said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up