Top U.S. military chief sees Portsmouth shipyard up closeBy GRETYL MACALASTER
Union Leader Correspondent
July 08. 2013 9:28PM
PORTSMOUTH — The nation’s top military officer paid a visit to the Port City on Monday with members of the New Hampshire and Maine Congressional delegation.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with officials at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base.
He was in the state at the invitation of Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and was hosted by Ayotte, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Angus King, I-Maine, as well as Congresswomen Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Annie Kuster, D-NH and Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH.
Dempsey and the delegation members met with shipyard commander Capt. William Greene and shipyard leadership to discuss operations.
Dempsey also received a tour of the nation’s oldest shipyard and was briefed on the status of repairs to the USS Miami submarine that was badly damaged in an arson fire last year.
After visiting the shipyard, Dempsey and New Hampshire delegation members met with representatives from 15 New Hampshire businesses, both large and small, working in the area of defense, including BAE, Juliet Marine Systems of Portsmouth and Mentis Sciences of Manchester. They also paid a visit to Pease Air National Guard Base to receive a briefing on the New Hampshire National Guard’s Deployment Cycle Support Program and to meet with New Hampshire defense suppliers.
In a phone interview from Washington, D.C., on Monday evening, Ayotte said the visit was a positive one.
She said as far as the delegation knows, it is the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs as ever been to the shipyard or the guard base and it was an honor to have Dempsey in the state.
She said the delegation was proud to showcase the work being done at the shipyard as well as by members of the Army Guard and Air Guard.
Ayotte said it was necessary to highlight the importance of New Hampshire, the shipyard, and the guard base in the defense of the nation, and for Dempsey to hear firsthand from workers.
She said he was impressed with the workers, their skills and expertise and their professionalism.
She said the delegation is often talking about the performance of the shipyard and guard base, but to see it in person gives it more impact.
Workers also had the opportunity to talk about the impact of furloughs, which began Monday for a small number of employees at the shipyard.
“There are no better spokespeople for those programs and for what is done in New Hampshire than the people on the ground, the workers on the shipyard he got to meet and see for himself, the members of the Guard he got to meet … nothing can replace hearing directly from the people who serve our nation every day, so I think that hearing from them is the best type of feedback he can get,” Ayotte said.
Shea-Porter also expressed pride in welcoming Dempsey to New Hampshire.
“I think General Dempsey was impressed by the extraordinary work ethic of the men and women at Pease and the Shipyard, and he realized how much the local communities support the men and women who serve,” Shea-Porter said.
The New Hampshire delegation spent most of the day with Dempsey before they all flew back to Washington on Monday evening ahead of votes on Capitol Hill in both the Senate and the House.