U.S. Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham speaks to the Rotary Club of Carson City on Tuesday.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.
The decorated surgeon general of the U.S. Navy told a group of landlocked Nevadans on Tuesday the Navy is doing important work people don’t always see.
“Everywhere our Navy goes, Navy medicine goes,” Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham told the Rotary Club of Carson City during a luncheon that celebrated Navy Week.
In an interview with the Appeal before the event, Gillingham stressed the Navy is an “expeditionary” force protecting international waters, sea lanes of commerce and communication.
“Freedom of navigation,” he said. “In contested areas, where there’s competition, we’re maintaining a U.S. presence.”
Such contested areas, he said, include the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. He called China a “pacing threat.” He also said the Navy is providing logistics and assistance to NATO allies close to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
“Should Russia threaten NATO countries, the U.S. and Navy are prepared to engage,” he said.
Gillingham has earned numerous medals and awards for his service but said he’s most proud of commendation his unit earned during the Iraq War. He was the officer in charge of the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon during the second battle for Fallujah, in 2004, when many soldiers were being injured by improvised explosive devices.
“We did damage control,” he explained.
He described how a 45-person team with a handful of surgeons got patients from the battlefield stabilized and transported to higher care centers. He said it was a profound experience.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m still in uniform after 40 years,” he said. “That experience taught me how important Navy medicine is to war fighters.”
Speaking to Rotarians, Gillingham emphasized that the Navy is important in peacetime, too. He said 90 percent of the world’s trade crosses oceans, and 95 percent of communication around the globe comes from undersea fiberoptic cable. The Navy protects “international norms.”
“One of the roles of the Navy is to be out forward and to demonstrate that freedom of navigation,” he said.
Gillingham noted a recent RIMPAC event brought the navies of 23 countries together for training exercises near Hawaii. Coordination with allies is “critically important,” especially when trying to deter bad actors on the world stage, he said.
The Rotary event ended with a recruitment pitch, with Gillingham saying the Navy is actively looking for “the best and brightest” to join its ranks. There was also a note of levity as one Rotarian questioned the real location of the Top Gun flight school as depicted in popular films.
“I can assure you it’s in Fallon,” Gillingham replied.
Gillingham is planning to retire next year, but he told the Appeal he will “continue to serve the nation in some capacity.”