On Thanksgiving Day, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is forward deployed in the Arabian Gulf for the fight against Islamic State.
Mabus helped to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the sailors and aviators on board, and he dined with the enlisted crew.
The dinner for the Eisenhower's 5,000 crewmembers included 2.5 tons of turkey, a half ton of ham, a half ton of beef tenderloin and a quarter ton of shrimp cocktail, plus 600 pies and cheesecakes.
Before the feast, Mabus held an all-hands meeting in the hangar bay to thank the crew for their service.
"Your role here is what the Navy and Marine Corps uniquely bring to America, which is presence," said Mabus. "Being not just in the right place at the right time, but in the right place all the time . . . The American people don't get to see how hard the jobs are we ask you do every single day. Right now we have the best force we have ever had and the greatest Navy the world has ever seen."
Mabus also took questions from the crew on recruiting, rating modernization and the future of the Navy. Earlier this year, under Mabus' direction, the Navy eliminated its system of enlisted ratings in favor of a simpler set of seven ranks, comparable to those found in the other branches of the military. The Navy leadership says that the ratings system makes it difficult for sailors to change roles within the service, and that the rating titles do not correspond well to recognized skills in the civilian workplace after active duty.
While it may have shortcomings for HR purposes, the ratings system is a time-honored tradition, older than the United States itself; the effort to replace it has met with resistance. A Whitehouse.gov petition to reverse the change quickly exceeded the number of signatures that triggers a mandatory review.