U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. has had a lot of worldwide experiences between his boyhood in Crossville, Tenn., and his speech at Chattanooga's Rotary Club on Thursday.
His message emphasized the importance of our far-flung naval operations, dealing with the varied challenges to American interests throughout the world.
Harris is a pilot who has logged 4,400 flight hours - more than 400 in combat. He was in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, on tours off Japan, and is Joint Force Maritime Component commander in Europe, deputy commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and deputy commander of our naval forces in Africa.
Our Navy has 285 ships, half of them "away," Harris noted Thursday.
In recent months, U.S.-led or assisted airstrikes have been undertaken against Libya, confronting Moammar Gadhafi's regime, supporting a no-fly zone and attempting to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi's military.
Harris reminds us of the vital support responsibilities of our Navy in Afghanistan as well, and we recall the Navy's successful response to Somali pirates off East Africa not long ago.
We are fortunate to have the excellent quality of our Navy - and the men and women in our other military forces, too. They are protecting U.S. interests, facing hostile challenges and projecting U.S. power - successfully - throughout our troubled and dangerous world.
And incidentally, 2011 is the 236th anniversary of our important U.S. Navy.