CEO Update 15 June 2022


We have kicked off our ten-year anniversary with an incredible LA Fleet Week and a surprise Presidential visit. It has been a couple exhilarating weeks for the crew, and I am deeply appreciative of the team’s commitment, professionalism, and perseverance despite the extraordinary time commitment necessary.

As the Battleship IOWA Museum expands into the National Museum of the Surface Navy, our role in raising awareness for freedom of the seas remains front and center. The core elements of the museum focus on trade and commerce, international diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and technological innovation. Events that we participate in include these core elements coupled with our program pillars of education, veterans, and community.  LA Fleet Week is a culmination of all these elements in affiliation with the City and Port of Los Angeles, Port of Los Angeles Police Department, USO, LA Fleet Week Foundation, and several other partners.

The establishment and growth of these relationships make it possible for us to work as a team for the benefit of the community including the USNS Mercy mission in 2020 and the Presidential visit last Friday, June 10th.  Ironically, this was ten years and one day after our main channel entry to our final location – berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles. While this wasn’t purposeful, I believe it is part of the magic that continues to make it possible for our organization to achieve incredible accomplishments.

As a politically neutral platform, the Battleship IOWA is an iconic venue that has hosted five Presidents at one point or another since 1943, earning its title as the ‘Battleship of Presidents.’ Representing Big Stick diplomacy and the busiest port complex in the western hemisphere, there is no better location for conversations and speeches to occur on freedom of the seas. 

We are not blind to the fact that there are supporters and detractors of our current President, much like there have been with every President in history. Despite individual opinions, several crew members left their differences pier side and prepared the ship for this unique visit. 

After one day of rest from the end of Fleet Week, the team went into full swing with program and security preparations. Mike Getscher, our COO, was at MegaRust learning about techniques to maintain our hull when he received the call from me to prepare for the next “Fleet Week” level event in a little over a week. Despite being tired, he swung into full motion and interfaced with the White House teams to make it happen. David Canfield was called back from his week at home to work with the communications team and I cancelled my week with the family to return to support the event.

‘Task Force 46’ was formed of both paid and volunteer crewmembers to perform a variety of tasks including deck repairs, tour re-routing, comms infrastructure improvements, landing zone preparation, and event setup. The Port of Los Angeles Police Department team led the charge on behalf of the Port staff and seamlessly turned up the ultra-secure operation, and our friends from UPS provided large trucks for this purpose. 

In spite of the stress, exhaustion, and demands with back-to-back major events, every member of the team took on the challenge with professionalism and a smile, ultimately creating a memorable visit from President Joe Biden. For those that participated in preparing for this visit, I am thinking about creating a special Task Force 46 memento. Have an idea on what that may be? Please let me know by replying to this email.

Unfortunately, due to both federal law and security requirements for a sitting U.S. President, we were severely restricted to minimal crew on board. Each member of the staff who would be aboard had to go through an extensive background check and have a defined critical role.

As we got closer to game time, the venue was completely locked down and movement restricted throughout. Most of the team present was confined to a hold area, waiting to respond only when requested or required by the White House team. It is this team that I have an extraordinary level of appreciation for, as they worked their tails off to prepare for the event and were then confined to a small room, inside the ship, for the duration of the President’s visit. At one point, I was directed to stay with them until I was invited to exit to watch the press conference from a distance. 

My deepest appreciation goes to the confined team of David Canfield, Jenny Sova, Dave Moser, Jim Ohr, and Marann Fengler. A special thank you to Captain Rich Abele for raising the Presidential flag and Battleship Larry for piping the President on board, as well as respecting the security requirement to remain on station throughout the event. The hard work on Friday could not have been done without the efforts of the numerous additional staff and volunteer crew members who went above and beyond Wednesday and Thursday in preparation. Thank you, again, to everyone who supported.

As we kick off this week, the team is focused on the busy summer travel season during which we welcome an increase in visitors, events, and overnights. Over the past several weeks, the education team has supported hundreds of kids visiting for daytime STEM field trips – field trips that are funded by generous donors including Marathon Petroleum, Norris Foundation, Port of Los Angeles, and the Crail-Johnson Foundation. Kudos to the education team for their efforts to support the numerous field trips and for preparing for a very busy youth overnight season. As I walk the decks, it is exciting to see veterans helping veterans, students learning, visitors exploring, people celebrating, and locals enjoying the waterfront view.

The crew remains focused on continuing our expansion to the National Museum of the Surface Navy, while we celebrate ten years of operation at the Port of Los Angeles over the next year. Many of you have supported us in one way or another since prior to our arrival, and I extend my deepest appreciation to each of you for continuing to believe in our organization. 

The Development and Events teams have discussed putting together activities to celebrate our ten-year anniversary, including a special memento. We will gather to share memories and stories during events and podcasts to reflect on how far we have come as a team.

In October, we will gather for our second annual Freedom of the Seas event to give awards to national level leaders with a 2022 theme focused on the supply chain crisis. We will begin seeking sponsorship for this event in the coming weeks and we invite you to join us in supporting the museum at this annual awards gala.

This week, we will meet with one of the front-runners for the National Museum of the Surface Navy design. We have narrowed it down to three potential designers with the newly formed Museum Advisory Committee reviewing the proposals late this week and the Board of Directors considering for approval in late June. I am awe-struck by the talent that is involved with the Museum Advisory Committee and prospective design firms, many of them formerly with Disney Imagineering.  

As we work together to create the next generation of immersive experiences, your support continues to make it possible for us to push the envelope. My personal appreciation to each of you, regardless of your level of commitment, for sharing your thoughts, introducing friends and family to our organization, and supporting you with your time and treasure. Thank you for supporting your ship and organization.

Blessings for an incredible week!

Jonathan Williams
President & CEO

P.S. This week’s podcast features our SkillBridge intern, Kristen Burns-Agria, who discusses how the program has helped her with her transition from active military to civilian life.

Click the photo below to access the podcast or find it wherever you get your podcasts.

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