SecNav Speaks with Midshipmen

Written by MIDN 4/C Beckett Pulis

On 13 April 2016, Midshipmen of the Boston NROTC Battalion, graduate students of Harvard, and military personnel gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to hear from The Honorable Ray Mabus – the 75th Secretary of the Navy. The lecture, entitled “Universities, the Navy, and the Marines: Presence, Partnership, and the Way Ahead,” marked the five-year anniversary of the reinstatement of Harvard’s NROTC program following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010.

The lecture began with a few remarks from Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust. She discussed the importance of the NROTC Program to Harvard and the uptick in enrollment in NROTC for the Class of 2020 before introducing SECNAV. SECNAV then presented her with a Marine Corps Saber to show his gratitude for the program’s return to Harvard.

SECNAV discussed the need for a more integrated and diverse military. “Today, less than 1 percent of the United States population serves in the military,” he noted. “Forty or fifty years ago, almost everyone had a close relative in the military.” He said, “A more diverse force is a stronger force. We must reflect the people we protect.” SECNAV cited examples such as expanding military enrollment to the LGBTQ community and opening up all billets to women as instances in which the Navy has strengthened itself through diversity.

He also took the time to highlight his plan for the future of the Navy. First, he said, there must be a focus on innovation in order to inspire new possibilities with service. Additionally, he called for a transition to promoting people based on merit rather than years of service. SECNAV cited progress in creating a single uniform so that women did not have to wear a separate uniform from men. Lastly, he briefly touched on the need to reform the VA; specifically, to work on reducing the amount of time a veteran has to wait for proper treatment.

Following the lecture, SECNAV took some time to field questions about ROTC enrollment and integrating females.  He was also asked whether incentives to join the military take away from one’s sense of service – to which he responded that anyone who joins must have a sense of service to his or her country regardless of the incentive.

Afterward, the midshipmen gathered outside with CAPT Benke for a group photo before SECNAV headed out to Fenway Park to throw the first pitch for the Red Sox home opener.  The midshipmen appreciated the opportunity to hear the perspective of senior Navy leaders right in their own backyard.

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