By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Last Wednesday, June 8, was World Oceans Day, which makes this a good time to reflect on our Navy’s commitment here in Middle Pacific – in the world’s biggest ocean – and consider our shared values with friends and partners. As any Sailor can tell you, the sea does not separate us. It brings us together.
That’s why I am inspired to learn more about traditional voyagers like the Samoa Voyaging Society and Polynesian Voyaging Society.
Adm. Scott Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Adm. Vince Atkins, commander of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District, visited Samoa last February. While there – along with other dignitaries – the admirals personally met with and congratulated Lefagaoali‘i Savai‘i, the first woman captain of the Samoa Voyaging Society.
Meanwhile, traditional voyagers from Hawaii’s Polynesian Voyaging Society are sailing aboard Hōkūleʻa on a three-year global journey called Mālama Honua (“to care for our Island Earth”).
Like our Navy, traditional voyaging groups show their commitment to healthy oceans, renewable energy, cultural heritage and good navigation. Aboard their canoes, the voyagers sail by the wind and steer by the constellations, using only traditional wayfinding and celestial navigation techniques. This is something our Navy is reemphasizing and again teaching at our schools, including at the U.S. Naval Academy and Surface Warfare Officers School.
The commanding officer of SWOS, my good friend Capt. Dave Welch, is intimately aware of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. As former CO of USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and commodore of Destroyer Squadron 31 here in Pearl Harbor several years ago, Capt. Welch and his Sailors volunteered their off-duty time to sand canoes and refurbish PVS facilities as part of Navy community outreach.
Prior to launching their global journey, Hōkūleʻa voyagers received training in search and rescue swimming from U.S. Navy Sailors at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Now Sailors, veterans and their families on the East Coast are turning out to meet the voyagers, tour Hōkūleʻa, and learn more about celestial navigation and traditional voyaging.
Last week, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūleʻa was in New York City for World Oceans Day celebrations. They will be going up to New England in the days ahead. In recent weeks, the voyagers visited Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. (Hōkūleʻa has already sailed around Africa, visited Cuba, and will head to the Mediterranean. We look forward to their safe homecoming to the islands next year.)
Mālama Honua highlights our shared values: a courageous warrior’s ethos committed to preserving peace. We share our deep respect for the sea and for the environment. We believe in relationship-building and a strong commitment to diversity, innovation and science. Like all mariners, we have a common sense of adventure, perseverance and resilience.
These are constellations to steer by in the 21st century.
For hundreds of years our Navy has respected international laws, protected sea lanes and built cooperation with friends and partners. Ships deployed from or through Hawaii have helped our Navy preserve greater prosperity for many nations and hundreds of millions of people in Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Adm. Swift speaks of an “international rules-based system that emerged from the ashes of World War II and benefitted so many nations over the past 70 years. Codified by a series of norms, standards, rules and laws, adherence to this system remains the best possible way for all nations – large and small – to continue to rise peacefully, prosperously and securely.”
And our friends throughout the Pacific know we can and will respond with humanitarian assistance in times of need.
Next month, we will welcome 27 nations to the Middle Pacific to participate in the world’s biggest maritime exercise: Rim of the Pacific 2016. During RIMPAC, in support of Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, U.S. Third Fleet, we will explore new and innovative ways to use energy and protect the environment as part of the Great Green Fleet.
Our Navy is committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels that damage the environment and put warfighters at risk. Our Sailors and Marines are embracing renewable and alternative energy and innovative ways to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics for greater sustainability. We embrace the concepts that will lead to a “healthy ocean, healthy planet,” the theme of World Oceans Day.
The United States is a Pacific nation, with a responsibility – a commitment – to maintain security and stability for ourselves and our friends and allies. That’s our North Star. We achieve greater mutual understanding, security and prosperity by working together – communicating, training, learning and applying corrections to old observations. Just like we must align ourselves before we navigate by the stars.