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In Norfolk, Navy Secretary says Navy can sustain fighting in the Middle East 

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro says Navy can sustain fighting in the Middle East, at change of command in Norfolk. Jan. 12, 2024. Steve Walsh
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro says Navy can sustain fighting in the Middle East, at change of command in Norfolk. Jan. 12, 2024. Steve Walsh

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro praised the work of the Navy ships that participated in strikes against Houthi Rebels in Yemen in the Middle East late Thursday, saying the U.S. deterred more than 30 attacks this week.

“This kind of conduct just cannot continue,” Del Toro said in Norfolk. “It is a violation of international law and is a threat, obviously, to our fleet and the fleets of our allies and partners. And it is having a dramatic impact, obviously, on the free flow of trade.”

Rear Adml. Douglas Perry took command of 2nd Fleet on board the aircraft carrier USS Truman, docked at Naval Station Norfolk.

“Our long national nightmare is over,”  Del Toro said, as he pointed out that Perry was one of more than 400 top officers whose promotion was held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville. The delay lasted most of last year.

“I have said from the very beginning that our sailors and Marines who sail in harm's way, as proven yesterday, they have the every right to have the most experienced, capable officers, admirals and generals and colonels and others leading them in battle,” Del Toro said.

Perry grew up in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. He took over from Vice Admiral Daniel Dwyer. 

This is only the third change of command for 2nd Fleet since it was recommissioned in 2018. It covers the Atlantic and North Sea up to the arctic circle. The fleet also works directly with NATO forces in North America and the Joint Forces Command. 

Much of the 2nd Fleet's mission involves training ships in the fleet and includes some of the ships recently deployed to the Middle East. 

The USS Ford, part of the 2nd Fleet, is on its way back to Norfolk. It was extended for 75 days after fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas. The crew was on its first mission and planners expect to learn from the experience once it arrives next week. 

The Ford’s return leaves only the USS Eisenhower as the only U.S. carrier in the region.

“Certainly, that creates a pressurized environment to advance the training certifications of follow-on units,” Perry said. 

At the moment, no other ships from the 2nd Fleet have been called up to bolster U.S. forces in the region.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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