Navy chief: Be at the right place, all the time

  • Sept. 9, 2013

By Abby Tonsing 331-4245 |

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stood in the shade of the prow of the battleship USS Indiana outside Memorial Stadium hours before the start of the Indiana University’s football game against Navy.

Six months into mandatory federal budget cuts, Mabus said the Navy has “managed to manage” their way through sequestration so far. And it hasn’t stopped the Navy in its role of providing a presence, of providing the commander in chief with options, of being at the right place all of the time.

“Sequestration is not only dumb, it is punitive,” he said.

Asked to repeat what he called sequestration, Mabus replied in a southern drawl before giving a chuckle, “Dumb.”

“And the further into it we get, the more impact it’s going to have,” the former governor of Mississippi said.

In spite of budget cuts and before potential military action in Syria became a real possibility, the Navy had a presence outside Syria in the Mediterranean Sea.

“We had ships there. We didn’t have to move them there. We were there,” Mabus said.

It’s an example of what Mabus called being at the right place all of the time, not just at the right time.

For Mabus, Saturday’s USS Indiana prow dedication outside Memorial Stadium and the football game that followed were a celebration of those who have served their country.

“What this game and what this prow and what this display symbolizes and who it honors is not just the equipment of the Navy, but the people, our sailors, our Marines,” he said. “Whether it’s Syria or Libya ... or a tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti, it’s those people that make the difference.”

People, like Ozen Carrier, who came right out of boot camp and boarded the USS Indiana the day it was commissioned on April 30, 1942. He served three years on the ship during World War II.

Carrier and a caravan of six made the 800-mile drive from Southport, N.C., to Bloomington for Saturday’s prow dedication ceremony and game. Carrier spoke with Mabus in the shade of the prow, and was thanked for his service.

The prow of the USS Indiana joins the ship’s mainmast and two of its gun mounts, which have been on display outside the west entrance of Memorial Stadium since May 1966. The Frank Spenger family saved the front portion of the ship from being scrapped and had it on display in the parking lot of the family’s seafood restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. The family donated the prow to the university.