In 2012, as in 1812, the Navy keeps America free


Navy Week in Toledo provides an opportunity for Ohioans to visit our Navy ships, but more important, to meet the sailors who protect our way of life -- on, above, and below the sea.

This year is the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Many of the qualities that helped the Navy win 200 years ago hold true today: the fighting spirit and boldness of its sailors, its innovation and technological supremacy, its key role in preserving American sovereignty, and the direct link between a strong Navy and a prosperous America through free global trade.

The Navy Week commemoration of the bicentennial is a salute to all the sailors and Marines who fought gallantly in that conflict, who have served in all of our nation's conflicts since then, and who defend freedom around the world today.

About 3,000 Navy personnel, active-duty and civilian, are employed in Ohio. By keeping the world's waterways safe, the Navy makes it possible for goods to be delivered overseas, including the $46.4 billion in export shipments from Ohio last year.

But Ohio has given much more than employment support to the Navy: 253 Ohioans are Medal of Honor recipients, many of whom gave their lives in their final act of valor.

The state's first namesake ship, the USS Ohio, was a merchant schooner bought by the Navy in 1812. She served on Lake Erie in a squadron assigned to wrest control of the lake from the British. In 1814, she was captured, with the USS Somers, by British forces within pistol shot of Fort Erie.

The fifth USS Ohio, the first Trident class nuclear-powered submarine, was commissioned in 1981. In 2003, conversion began to modify the USS Ohio to carry conventional cruise missiles instead of Trident missiles. She also supports operations of Special Forces personnel.

During the War of 1812, America called on the Navy and its war-fighting sailors to preserve our country's security and prosperity. Two hundred years later, the ability to act from the sea remains critical to protecting America's interests.

The United States is a maritime nation, bounded by oceans on both sides. The Navy has never been more in demand. President Obama's national-security strategy emphasizes our commitment in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions -- vast maritime areas of the world, where naval operations are necessary and the Navy maintains a robust presence.

Elsewhere in the world, we are a nation at war. We face a terrorist network that has attacked our country before and vows to do so again. Unstable regimes are developing nuclear weapons. Rising powers are pursuing military buildups to match their economic growth.

Weak and failed states create havens for groups that seek to do us harm, such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and pirates in Somalia. Climate change creates new conflicts, as melting in the Arctic generates disputes over shipping lanes and oil supplies previously locked in ice.

The Navy is ideally suited to this kind of world; it is fast, flexible, and forward-operating. Our ships, submarines, and aircraft can go anywhere on the sea on short notice. They can do all of their work from international waters.

Navy ships and submarines can destroy targets far inland. Navy SEAL teams carry out special operations worldwide. The Navy delivers relief supplies and provides medical care in humanitarian crises, such as the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan last year, and the earthquake that ravaged Haiti in 2010.

Our ready force requires us to be smart about how we power our ships, aircraft, and submarines. The Navy is a leader in pursuing our war-fighting advantage through energy innovation and efficiency.

We have tripled our use of solar energy, and are exploring wind, geothermal, and hydrothermal power. These initiatives not only will give us an advantage in the next war, they may help avoid it altogether.

The Navy's war-fighters -- sailors from Ohio, the Midwest, and across the country -- are highly trained, highly motivated, and courageous. In 1812, the Navy was crucial. In 2012, it is vital.

Rear Adm. Gregory Nosal, commander of the U.S. Navy's Carrier Strike Group Two, is overseeing the Navy Week commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in Toledo.