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December 2017

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne

Commander's Perspective
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USNS Hershel 'Woody' Williams, MSC Reading List

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, USN
Commander, Military Sealift Command

This past Saturday the Navy christened our newest expeditionary sea base ship, USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB 4). The ship is named after Hershel Williams who joined the U.S. Marine Corps after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and received the Medal of Honor for actions during the battle of Iwo Jima. He is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from that historic battle. We are honored to have an MSC ship named after this great American hero. If we can work with a fraction of the skill, tenacity and dedication displayed by Woody Williams we will be well on our way to operating as a high-performing team focused on mission accomplishment.

Naval forces are critically important in building partnerships with our friends and allies, rapidly responding to crises, deterring adversaries, and sustaining our forward presence. Ships like Hershel “Woody” Williams enable MSC to confidently sail the world’s oceans, providing assured logistics and specialized support to the joint warfighter.

We know that today’s maritime system has become more heavily used, more stressed, and more contested than ever before. The Chief of Naval Operations recently noted that in the last 25 years, the amount of maritime traffic on the sea has increased by 400 percent!

Our mission is to empower the global warfighter, 24/7/365, and we are the best in the world at what we do today. I continue to receive positive feedback from senior military leaders around the world that MSC is a valuable partner, contributing each day to the success of the joint warfighter.

However, we can no longer presume dominance in space, cyber, air, sea, and undersea domains. New operational concepts and innovative thinking are needed to ensure mission accomplishment.

Like her sister ship, USS Lewis B. Puller, currently operating forward in the Middle East region, Hershel “Woody” Williams will provide us a competitive edge against potential adversaries. Through her unique combination of aviation support, equipment staging, command and control, and a well-trained crew, this expeditionary sea base will provide our leadership with options and decision space.

An area we need to continue to develop and nurture is our many partnerships with other military units, as well as those outside our lifelines. The construction and delivery of Hershel “Woody” Williams is an example of a highly effective partnership with industry. More partnerships like these are needed to collectively ensure mission success in a contested environment.

It is important to remember that this ship will be crewed by U.S. mariners. As this ship will likely sail in harm’s way, our mariners will be there, reliably and bravely manning our ships, even if the seas become a battlefield.

I want to recognize and thank all those in industry, at MSC, and other Navy commands, who played a role in bringing this ship to life. We eagerly await the upcoming arrival of this ship to our fleet where our Mariners will give her life and sail her into the challenges ahead.

MSC Reading List

As detailed in the Voyage Plan and Navigation Track, Military Sealift Command is committed to continuous improvement and innovation. This commitment not only applies to our processes and procedures, but to our professional development as well. This can best be achieved through honing our critical thinking and analysis skills. A regular diet of reading can be a great aid in this area.

MSC has developed a reading list that serves as a common frame of reference among our employees. These books, chosen from dozens of submissions from MSC employees across the enterprise, touch on issues which are of high relevance to our daily operations and include topics of maritime logistics and history, and personal and organizational successes. They reflect the diversity of thought and talent we have throughout MSC.

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, provides a thoughtful perspective on the value of reading when he says, “Warfare is a violent, intellectual contest between thinking and adapting adversaries. The team that can think better and adapt faster will win. As we prepare for operations and war with an increasingly complex set of potential adversaries, we must do more to sharpen our thinking, learn the lessons from history, and expand our minds.”

The MSC 2017 Reading List is located on the MSC portal at the Commander’s Corner under Commander’s Links; and also on the MSC public website at Your supervisor can also provide you a copy of the reading list.

Our intent is to update this list annually so if you come across books you believe would be a good addition don’t hesitate to submit those titles to our Public Affairs office for our 2018 list.

It is our responsibility as leaders and team members to continue to grow, intellectually challenge ourselves, and to question the status quo.

I encourage you to discuss with your teammates the ideas, concepts, and lessons from history you learn through reading books on this list and look for ways to use this knowledge to better inform the work we are doing at MSC.

United We Sail,

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, USN
Commander, Military Sealift Command