Navy Secretary Ray Mabus seems to prefer “Semper Fortis” as the Navy's motto, often incorporating it into his speeches. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
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The Navy doesn't have an official motto like the Marine Corps does, but Navy Secretary Ray Mabus likes to use an unofficial one — Semper Fortis.
Sound kind of familiar?
“It's been there as long as the Marines have had ‘Semper Fi,'” Mabus said in a recent interview. “Semper Fortis is to the Navy what Semper Fi is to the Marine Corps.”
Semper Fortis translates to English a few ways, including “always strong” or “always courageous,” according to Latin dictionaries. SECNAV often incorporates the motto into his speeches and all-hands calls.
But Semper Fortis' relationship with sailors can't compare to Semper Fi for leathernecks, said Navy Capt. Michael Junge, in the February issue of the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine.
Semper Fortis “is rarely used — conversationally or officially,” he argued in the article, titled “Semper huh?”
“The one exception to that seems to be the sitting secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus,” said Junge, a career surface warfare officer and faculty member at the Naval War College in Rhode Island.
The reason is cultural, he said. The Marine Corps is focused more on “overall unit cohesion and identity.”
Even so, the Navy's semper slogan is resonating with at least some sailors. A quick web search will produce a number of “Semper Fortis” arm and back tattoos on sailors.