The commanding officer of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) recently voiced her strong backing of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the laws and programs that keep it afloat. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost (USAF) addressed more than 600 attendees Dec. 3 in New York during the annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea event, sponsored by the United Seamen’s Service. The audience included maritime labor leaders (many from the SIU), industry executives, other military officers, international maritime officials and others (see story, this page).
Gen. Van Ovost was the first speaker. She said, “The Department of Defense relies on you to deliver our decisive military force – a job you have done for decades. This industry is critical to advancing American interests. As a seafaring nation, our country has been, and is, and will continue to be reliant on the strength of the maritime industry and the many mariners who are known for their determination, their grit and selfless service. You are true patriots.”
She pointed out that mariners “are the first to go and the last to return” during major conflicts, and added that their role isn’t limited to those periods. “You are America’s economic lifeline during peacetime,” she stated. “I’ve referred to you as TRANSCOM’s fourth component.”
Gen. Van Ovost touched on current challenges facing both the armed services and the maritime industry. She emphasized the partnership between the public and private sectors, their shared goals, and the value of regular sealift exercises. She also underscored the importance of “minimizing our reliance on foreign entities”
She referred to a relatively recent study that led to the creation of the new U.S. Tanker Security Program and added, “Programs such as the Tanker Security Program, the Maritime Security Program and the Jones Act ensure that we have reliable access to industry capabilities to meet our needs.”
The general then recalled a quote from retired Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said: “Our national security depends on a vital merchant marine foundation.”
Gen. Van Ovost concluded, “I could not be more proud of the relationship between TRANSCOM and the maritime industry. We value the U.S. mariners operating U.S. vessels, and we recognize the important role our mariners play in the strength of our nation.”
SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel was one of the main honorees at the awards dinner, and the union had a strong turnout that included SIU President Michael Sacco, Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Vice Presidents Dean Corgey, Tom Orzechowski, Joseph Soresi, Nick Marrone and Nicholas Celona and many other officials.