Secretary tours isle


POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recalls that one of his first visits to the islands occurred while he was still attending Harvard Law School and served as a summer intern at a downtown law firm.

“;It was Carlsmith, Carlsmith, Wichman and Case,”; Mabus, 60, told reporters yesterday during a brief Pearl Harbor news conference. “;It was the summer of 1974. That was the richest I have ever been. They flew me out here. They gave me a car, an apartment and $1,000 a month. I was rich. I had a great time. I was single.”;

Although he has been a frequent island visitor since then, this is Mabus' first visit after being sworn in as the civilian head of the Navy two months ago, leading nearly 900,000 people.

Hawaii is the first leg of a Pacific-Asian tour that will take him to Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea before he returns to the Pentagon on Aug. 29. This follows an 11-day trip earlier this month, during which he met with sailors and Marines in Afghanistan, Iraq and five other U.S. Central Command countries.

In Hawaii, he will have met with the Pacific Command's leaders, U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Dan Inouye, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and laid a wreath on the battleship USS Arizona before he leaves tomorrow. Mabus had lunch aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon yesterday and will visit with Marines at Kaneohe Bay today.

While in Afghanistan, Mabus visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, where Kaneohe Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have been stationed since May and are participating in a major offensive against the Taliban.

He said those Marines are doing as good a job as can be done “;under very, very tough circumstances.”;

“;They are engaging with (a) civilian population,”; he said. “;They are not just staying in their bases. They are getting out. They are interdicting drug trade. They have taken the fight to the Taliban. They are doing it in a way civilians are not targeted and there has not been as many civilian casualties. They (Marines) are taking risks by doing that.”;

Hawaii and the Pacific are incredibly important to the nation, Navy and the Marine Corps, said Mabus, who in 1988 was elected as the youngest governor of Mississippi.

“;If you look at the issues America is going to have to face, you look at what America is going to have to do over the next five years, 10 years, 20 years, a lot of those are centered here in the Pacific.”;

He pointed to the Navy's quick response when the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal ran aground on a reef near the Honolulu Airport on Feb. 5. Nine tugboats and ships pulled the warship off the reef on a fourth attempt Feb. 9.

“;The Navy and Hawaii worked closely together on all aspects of that,”; Mabus said.

It was the biggest remediation the Navy has ever done, Mabus said, with the Navy spending more than $7 million to try to repair the coral reef by re-attaching 5,400 colonies and removing underwater boulders that might create further damage. The program was stopped by the summer south swells, but may be reinstated when ocean conditions become calmer, Mabus added.