He called upon sailors to live up to this storied past and recalled meeting sailors and Marines around the world in his less than eight months as the sea service’s top civilian.
“I’ve had the honor of witnessing your service,” Braithwaite said. “I leave this office more confident than ever in the readiness and power of our force.”
Braithwaite shouted out the sailors who fought the crippling blaze aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard last summer, as well as pioneering female drill instructors and the healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
He also recalled “frank conversations” he had with enlisted personnel about racial injustice, sexual assault, and suicide.
“The proof that we will never fail nor falter in the face of adversity is what I have seen in each of you,” he said.
“There’s a reason the Navy and Marine Corps have stood the test for nearly two-and-a-half centuries, and it has very little to do with who occupies the office of the secretary of the Navy,” Braithwaite added. “As it was here on Wake Island in 1941, and as it remains today, our greatest strength will always be our people.”
“Live up to that legacy,” he said. “Semper Fidelis, Semper Fortis and thank you all. This has truly been the greatest honor of my life.”
Braithwaite served briefly but announced in recent months some significant changes to the sea service, including the re-designation of U.S. Fleet Forces Command as U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and the standing up of U.S. 1st Fleet, which will ostensibly oversee the busy nexus of the Indian and Pacific oceans.
He served more than 30 years with the Navy and was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Norway when he took the helm of the sea service in May.
His arrival followed the abrupt departure of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who resigned in April after a fiery recording of him addressing the beleaguered crew of the COVID-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and trash-talking the ship’s former CO leaked to the public.
Modly’s predecessor as Navy secretary, Richard Spencer, was fired in late 2019 over his handling of a SEAL war crimes case that put him at odds with President Donald Trump.
Each of the services will be overseen by their respective comptrollers until the Senate confirms President Joe Biden’s nominations.
For the Navy, the role of acting secretary will be filled by Thomas Harker, who has in recent years served as the service’s chief civilian financial officer.
“I am honored to return to the Department of the Navy Team as your Acting Secretary,” he said in a letter to the fleet released Wednesday.
“As we continue to navigate our way through the COVID-19 crisis, I am confident we will work together to help bring our Nation through this historic period,” Harker added.