DAHGLREN, Va. - Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Sailors and civilians gathered around an unusual looking artifact while celebrating the U.S. Navy's 243rd birthday.
Only one week before another Navy anniversary - Dahlgren's centennial - they curiously and closely examined the artifact. It was a World War I bombsight that military and civilian personnel used to conduct testing at the Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground in the 1920s and 1930s.
The NSWCDD celebration of the Navy's 243rd birthday featured Cmdr. Steven Perchalski as the command's oldest Sailor cutting the Navy's birthday cake with the command's youngest Sailor, Lt. Adam Mattison.
The Navy birthday cake-cutting ceremony is important to all Sailors, as it is an annual renewal of each Sailor's commitment to the Navy and the Navy's commitment to our nation's quest for peace and freedom worldwide. Perchalski and Mattison cut the cake with a sword, a traditional reminder that NSWCDD Sailors are among a band of warriors, committed to carrying arms so that the United States and its people may live in peace.
Meanwhile, the aircraft course-setting bombsight - one of the few surviving bombsights tested at Dahlgren - seemed to preside over the event as a fascinating, historic reminder of Dahlgren's impact on the Navy over the past century. NSWCDD will celebrate 100 years of cutting-edge technological innovation in support of the warfighter at the centennial grand finale event Oct. 19 that includes an exhibition tent, a U.S. Navy Band performance, and historic tours featuring six station stops on base.
"Because of your hard work and dedication, the foundation for restoring readiness and increasing lethality has been set. But as we enter our 244th year of service, we must now build on that foundation. I need you to continually think of how to improve the delivery of the Navy the Nation needs with a committed sense of urgency," said Perchalski, quoting the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, as he read Spencer's birthday message to all in attendance. "We are accountable for how and where we invest our time and our resources, and we must understand the readiness and lethality we gain from those investments. To that end, we must be disciplined in our focus on our people, capabilities, and processes. We have developed plans informed by the National Defense Strategy, which recognizes that our primary role is warfighting. Now each of us must align our efforts to in order to accomplish these plans. Ask yourselves and each other, how can we accomplish our mission better, faster, and cheaper. With your help, I have no doubt we will leverage every resource, leading practice, and efficiency we can find with the professionalism, integrity and accountability the American people expect."
The theme for the Navy's 243rd birthday on Saturday, Oct. 13 - celebrated at Dahlgren on Friday - was "Forged by the Sea." Navy birthday events continued through Oct. 15 throughout the Fleet - at sea, stateside and overseas.
The gathering of Dahlgren Sailors and civilians - including British Lt. Cmdr. Rich Bowen, stationed at NSWCDD via a Personnel Exchange Program - watched Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith's video message.
Smith said that America has been kept safe through exceptional talent, dedication to duty and strength of character.
"John Paul Jones once said 'men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.' That's what this is about - our people," Smith said in reference to the first well-known naval commander in the American Revolutionary War.
He also said that with all the creativity and innovation, the Navy will meet any challenges "head on" and is prepared "for whatever comes next."
Recalling landmark battles such as the War of 1812 and the Battle of Midway, Richardson said, "Throughout our history, our Sailors have always risen to the occasion and punched above their weight when the nation called."
Richardson closed his remarks with a quote from Jones:
"He who cannot risk, will not win.' This is the year that we win. Wherever you are around the world - on a ship, in a squadron, take some time to think about what this year means as we go and we win it. We earn it every single day, every single watch."
On Oct. 13, 1775, a resolution of the Continental Congress established what is now the United States Navy with "a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible dispatch, for a cruise of three months."
After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers. The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a Navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, of these six frigates the USS Constitution "Old Ironsides" was launched on Oct. 21, 1797. The War Department administered naval affairs from 1794 until Congress established the Department of the Navy on April 30, 1798.
In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt authorized recognition of the Navy's birthday on Oct. 13. Since then, each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion "to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service."
Over the past two and a half centuries, the Navy has grown to become the largest, most advanced and most lethal fighting force the world has ever known. The Navy today has more than 328,000 personnel on active duty and around 100,000 personnel in the Navy Reserve, as well as, 286 deployable battle force ships and approximately 270,000 civilian employees.