Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert, right, speaks with sailors Nov. 21 aboard the mine countermeasures ship Sentry in Manama, Bahrain, during his Thanksgiving week visit to 5th Fleet. (Peter D. Lawlor / Navy)
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Sailors in the Persian Gulf are keeping an eye on the Gaza Strip.
But what's also on their minds, said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert, is whether Congress will deal with the current budget crisis in time to avoid sequestration — and what the impact to them will be if it kicks in.
"It is difficult for our sailors and, in fact, it's difficult for me, to digest just what exactly happens if sequestration kicks in," Greenert said from Bahrain during a conference call last week with reporters.
Greenert was on a Thanksgiving visit to units stationed or deployed to 5th Fleet's area of operations and planned to split his Turkey Day between the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and the cruiser Hue City.
"I made it clear to them that [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta] said that we are not planning for any of these things, but that these are all alternatives out there, and we very much turned to Congress to resolve this."
Greenert said that the military members are "encouraged" by the fact military manning cuts would be exempt. Civilian personnel, however, would not be.
Also on sailors' minds, he said, is whether the current uptick in enlisted advancements will continue.
"I said ‘no,'" Greenert relayed to reporters, "but that we're close to stabilization [in advancements] and it will be close to this … probably a little less … as we stabilize out here in the future."
Uniforms were another issue on the minds of sailors in Bahrain, but Greenert said they are "satisfied with the ones they have here in the theater." For most sailors, that means the Type III woodland Navy Working Uniform, and the Type II tactical desert version for others.
Greenert also visited Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. expeditionary base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, where he met with about 500 sailors.
From there, he headed to the northern Persian Gulf, where the dock landing ship Rushmore was involved in operations with the Kuwaiti military.
The Marines operated ashore with their ground force counterparts, while the Rushmore conducted visit, board, search and seizure operations with the Kuwaiti navy.
They also trained in convoy operations, escorting high-value assets such as oil supertankers.
Greenert praised the Kuwaiti sailors.
"They're in pretty good shape and have a very high level of confidence in what they're doing," Greenert said, adding that the ship would conduct similar training with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates later in its deployment.