For a week I had the honor of riding aboard USS PELELIU (LHA 5), an amphibious carrier and one of our nation’s capital ships. If you have become worried about our military’s readiness, or whether there has been a decline in operational effectiveness because of the strain of war, put your mind at ease.

That’s not to say the operational tempo isn’t high – it is. The ship has deployed three times in just about as many years. It is hard on the families of the Sailors and Marines when their mothers and fathers are gone so much. It can also be tough on the material condition of all the hardware needed to keep a ship moving through the water and delivering Marines with the equipment they need to do their jobs.

I’ve been to sea enough that I shouldn’t be surprised by what I see, but I am. Where I expect to see disgruntlement I see professional pride. When I think I’ll be confronted with complaints and nay-saying, I see resolution.

Today’s Sailors and Marines are a different breed than they were a few years ago. They acknowledge the operational strain, but don’t despair of it. Instead, they concentrate on honing the skills required to perform in their respective areas of expertise. I spent time with engineers, combat cargo handlers, flight deck personnel, even mess cooks. They were, to a person, focused on their jobs, taking pride in doing them right.

The author with some PELELIU Sailors and Marines

They were almost obsessive about training, a quality that is the hallmark of any good organization. Everywhere I looked newer Sailors and Marines were being trained by the seasoned ones. Rarely did I see an evolution without an instructor standing by, keeping a watchful eye on a young supervisor, leaning over from time to time to provide timely and important course corrections as they performed their jobs. There was no yelling, no berating, only the sharing of wisdom that comes from confidence and experience. The ship was growing its leadership from within, a sure sign of a healthy and enduring organization.

Large deck amphibious ships house several organizations, headed by the Amphibious Squadron Commander, the MEU Commander and the ship’s Captain. In PELELIU, these three leaders took great pains to work together and provide mutual support. Their commitment to thinking as one team has become a philosophy that permeates throughout the ship.

I don’t know where PELELIU goes next, but wherever it is, the crew and embarked Marines will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and represent the United States with dignity and combat effectiveness – this I can guarantee.

Thank you, PELELIU, for allowing me to count myself as one of your number, if only for a week. You make us proud. God speed and God bless you all. You are our heroes of the week.


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