Warfighting First: What Does It Mean To You?


In Sailing Directions I describe my #1 tenet: Warfighting First. It is the essence of why PRT Farah Conducts Medical Evacuation Training with Charlie Co., 2-211th Aviation Regiment at Forward Operating Base Farahwe have a Navy. The credible ability to fight and win is an effective deterrent; it will convince a potential enemy not to take actions to try to harm us. I developed my three tenets (Warfighting First, Operate Forward, and Be Ready) to provide a set of “lenses” through which we should view every decision – whether you are a Cryptologic Technician at Fort Meade or a Fire Controlman on an Aegis ship in the Arabian Gulf or a Culinary Specialist at the base galley. We use these lenses so that our decisions and efforts ensure the Navy continues to provide what the nation needs from us. Regardless of budgets, we need to stay focused on what is important. As MCPON Stevens says, “We need to control what we own.” These are words of wisdom.

Effective warfighting requires two main elements: 1) preparation – developing the right hardware and professional skills, and 2) mindset – confidence in our proficiency to do our130313-N-ER662-022 jobs. Effective warfighting is mostly about preparation, something we do daily. Take painting, for example. Most of the job—chipping, sanding, and priming – is preparation. We need to provide you the time and the means to prepare with the right equipment, so you can be proficient. Proficiency breeds confidence. Warfighting, if the time comes, should be almost instinctive; in the “fog of war” it will have to be.


A recent example of this concept is in the Arabian Gulf. Over the past year we moved 120612-N-NN926-199more minesweepers there, put new guns on the patrol craft, expanded use of unmanned systems, added new torpedoes and added sensors to our carrier strike groups. We didn’t wait for the most sophisticated technology to be vetted, tested (and retested); we fielded what was needed, reliable and relevant to the threats. In turn, Sailors practiced how to use these new systems and then put them to work in theater. That’s Warfighting First—understanding what is needed and rapidly reacting to train and equip our Sailors with what they need to fight and win. The keys are relevant equipment, credible capability and proficient Sailors.

That brings me to the second element of Warfighting First—warfighting as a mindset. Our profession requires a special set of attributes: preparation, discipline, loyalty, bravery and130326-N-QI595-104 a willingness to provide and receive orders and work with others. We have a shared sense of purpose and sacrifice because we understand that without the Shipmate next to us we couldn’t do our job. “Warfighting First” applies to every Officer, Sailor and Civilian, no matter who you are, where you are stationed or what you’re working on. Every link in the chain is critical. Whether you do preventive maintenance on a propulsion system, load a weapon or clean the galley, stay focused on the contribution you provide to our warfighting ability. Our history and 130314-N-BT887-526heritage illustrates Sailors at every skill and experience level stepping forward in a time of need. From the Ensign who got the battleship USS Nevada underway during the attack on Pearl Harbor to the Deck Seamen on the USS Cole who stepped up to save their Shipmates and their ship. Always be prepared to do your job when the time comes to fight.


I ask each of you to look at your daily routine through the lens of “Warfighting First.” Think about how your work impacts warfighting. Fielding the right systems, honing our skills and knowing our contribution to the fight is how we achieve Warfighting First.

Admiral, U.S. Navy

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  • Alla Malushkova

    Дорогой Вильям..что бы не делали.. честь и хвала Вам

  • http://www.facebook.com/damian.delaney1 Damian Delaney

    This is damned good advice, and absolutely true every moment you’re at sea or turning your ship around in port.

  • richard sterzinger

    Sound statement Admiral Keep up the Proud Tradition of alway’s being ready and leading the way to our safety as a Nation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lorrieofoc Lorrie Flather

    I am awed and full of pride at our Navy. My dad and grandson are Navy. I truly feel safe knowing the caliber of those at the helm of this amazing branch of our military. I pray for those who serve every day.