PORT HUENEME – Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the nation’s chief of naval operations, told sailors at Naval Base Ventura County on Monday they are serving their country in a crucial period of American history, facing a war on terrorism likely to last decades. “We’re in a long war – the global war on terror,” said Mullen, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “If you stay in 30 years, this war will still be going on.” He spoke to hundreds of young sailors gathered to hear him speak during a stop on his way to Hawaii to commemorate the Pearl Harbor anniversary on Wednesday. “The attack on Pearl Harbor 64 years ago was a horrific day for us,” he said, adding that when people remember Dec. 7, 1941, they now think about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “I’m not surprised that Mike has risen to the top of the Navy,” Hampton, who taught algebra to Mullen, is quoted as saying. For the upcoming magazine, Mullen said his background at Notre Dame helped make it possible for him to take advantage of opportunities he encountered. “The rigorous academics, the sense of teamwork on the basketball court and the support of great friends and skilled teachers all gave me the confidence I needed to succeed in the Navy,” he said. On Monday, Mullen thanked hundreds of members of the Naval Construction Battalion Force, or Seabees, for their “can-do” reaction helping hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast. “The Seabees’ contributions have been extraordinary,” he said. He also praised the role of the Seabees supporting the Marines in Iraq and talked about plans for the Navy to assume a new role in the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and new responsibilities fighting terrorism and piracy around the Horn of Africa. “We will continue to be pressed hard,” he said, adding that, while the challenges are unprecedented, the Navy is ready. “This is the greatest Navy we’ve ever had.” Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Since becoming the Navy’s top uniformed officer on July 22, Mullen has made it a priority to visit sailors around the world, discussing everything from the war on terrorism to what he called his no-tolerance attitude against racial and gender discrimination in the Navy. He grew up in North Hollywood, graduating in 1964 from Notre Dame High School, where he played basketball, and in 1968 from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Notre Dame officials are proudly featuring Mullen in a profile to be published in the January issue of the school’s biannual magazine, the Knight Letter. “His accomplishments are extraordinary,” said Katie Feeney, a publications coordinator at the school who put together the profile. She quotes Brother Robert Hampton, the principal while Mullen attended Notre Dame, who called him a gentleman who excelled in his classes, including math he took with other gifted students.