Joe J. Cardona Gonzalez and 

MC2 Hunter S. Harwell

USS Iwo Jima

The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) hosted two high-level dignitaries in one day as Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Steven S. Giordano each visited the ship at her homeport of Naval Station Mayport June 7.

Each held all-hands calls in which they thanked the crew for their efforts and recognized individual Sailors for their personal achievements.

During Gov. Scott's morning all-hands call, he awarded the Florida Medal of Merit to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class Andrew Miller and Airman David Barba for their actions during the Times Square attack on May 18.  Miller and Barba provided first aid assistance to the victims of the attack which claimed the lives of one woman and injured 22 others.

"Earlier this month, a disturbed individual made a ruthless decision," said Scott. "And this heartbreaking tragedy claimed the life of an innocent young woman and injured many more.  On behalf of every Floridian, we are so proud to have you representing us and serving our great nation."

The Governor concluded his visit by joining Miller and Barba in the ship's Suribachi room, a memorial room dedicated to the Sailors and Marines that lost their lives during the battle of Iwo Jima, for an interview with Jacksonville, Fla. news representatives. 

Gov. Scott ended his time onboard Iwo Jima by sharing his goal for service members stationed in Florida.

"When I was elected back in 2010, one of my goals was to make sure that Florida would be the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation," said Scott. "We have 1.5 million veterans that live in our cities and I am very appreciative of everybody that is currently and has served. As an enlisted Navy veteran myself, it is an honor to be with so many active duty military members here today, and I'd like to thank each and every one of you for your service and sacrifice."

Giordano also thanked the members of Iwo Jima for their service during a separate early afternoon all-hands call.

"You talk about one team that gets it done every day and knows what that means to one another, we know that is this crew," said Giordano. "Sometimes there are challenges out there, but it is obvious that all of you operate at an extremely high level and on behalf of your chain of command, I want to say thank you for being those sailors in our Navy."

Giordano continued to discuss the latest developments around the fleet and highlighted many of the upcoming plans for future warfighters throughout the Navy.

"We are looking into our high tenure retention efforts and what we can do about it," said Giordano. "It does not make sense to bring in 40,000 new people every year and train them to be Sailors in our Navy. If we can just keep the Sailors we have longer and educate them better, and give them more options in the fleet, maybe they may want to stay in longer and we're looking at doing that as best we can."

Following his remarks, Giordano held an open forum with the Sailors and personally answered many of their questions regarding advancement, retention and command readiness.

Giordano concluded his visit by providing gratitude to the crew and encouragement for the ship's upcoming deployment.

"We will not go looking for a fight with anyone because there are no winners in a fight," said Giordano. "Just know that if we have to fight, there is no second place for us. Our Navy will always be number one in any fight. By doing what you all do every day, you're showing that Iwo Jima is ready to be first in the fight."

Iwo Jima is currently undergoing the integrated phase of pre-deployment qualifications.