MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- The commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) visited Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F), the maritime component command located at Naval Station Mayport July 30 to engage with fleet Sailors, DoD personnel and discuss future operations.
Marine Gen. John Kelly's visit to Mayport came after COMUSNAVSO/C4F's completion of the high-speed vessel Swift (HSV-2) deployment to Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras as part of Southern Partnership Station (SPS).
During his visit, Kelly met with Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, commander, COMUSNAVSO/ C4F, and his staff to look at lessons learned from SPS and ways to improve future mission capabilities and national partner engagements.
"It was very important to explain in detail how we have enriched the enduring partnerships we already have in Central America during Southern Partnership Station and how we tested low-cost innovative ideas and technology to conduct future missions in the SOUTHCOM area of operations," Harris said.
Kelly addressed COMUSNAVSO/C4F during an all hands call at the headquarters and discussed a variety of issues ranging from civilian furloughs to budget cuts effecting USSOUTHCOM component commands.
He acknowledged frustration Sailors and DoD civilians may be experiencing and thanked them for their patience and commitment to duty during the fiscal uncertainty. "Thanks for all that you do. You give and your families give like most Americans can't even imagine," said Kelly.
Kelly also emphasized the importance of suicide and sexual assault prevention programs. "It's about taking care of each other," stated Kelly during the all hands call. "Sexual assault is abominable and we can fix it."
Bystander intervention and positive command climate continued to be main topics of discussion at a joint service, enlisted luncheon with Kelly and Harris held at the base galley.
"We're better than society in general and because of that we are held to a higher standard," explained Kelly as he shared a story of how bystander intervention prevented a sexual assault at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. "It really starts here, down on the deckplates."
Army Staff Sgt. Conrad Carrasco, assigned to Fleet Logistics Command Jacksonville, was one of the 18 service members at the luncheon who conveyed open dialogue with leadership and enlisted from other military branches on DoD wide concerns and prevention programs was beneficial to him.
"I think what the general had to say was very interesting, especially about sexual assault and sexual harassment. I'm glad to see the progress that the military is making to combat [this problem]," said Carrasco.
Air Traffic Controller Airman Apprentice Lauryn Lubenstein, assigned to NS Mayport Air Operations, also attended the lunch and found it inspirational and educational to speak with Kelly.
"I am new to the Navy, I really don't have any experience, so it's good to talk to someone who has a lot more experience," said Lubenstein. "It's inspiring, to hear from someone so [high ranking] and have him come here and talk to us."
Kelly wrapped up his visit to Mayport at Helicopter Squadron, 60 (HSL-60) for a demonstration on their involvement in Africa and how USSOUTHCOM could benefit from their experiences for counter drug operations. HSL-60 is the first naval unit authorized for nighttime use of force against drug boats which contributed to the capturing of $1 billion in illegal drugs headed for the United States over deployment.
Kelly received a first-hand opportunity to witness some of the squadron's capabilities with a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter flight. While at HSL-60, he talked with personnel and recognized two Sailors who recently earned Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist designations.
COMUSNAVSO/C4F is currently ramping up to support PANAMAX and UNITAS, both are partnership-building exercises within the USSOUTHCOM area of operation, were the command will serve as maritime force commander. Both exercises are schedule to begin in August and continue through the fall.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.