YOKOSUKA, Japan – Petty Officer Samuel Howard, a native of Green Brook, New Jersey, comes from a proud family of people who served in the military. He is proud to say that he is the first in his family to serve in the Navy.
|Photo By Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward|
Now, five years later and half a world away, Howard serves aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“It is straining being out here in Japan, with the high op-tempo and the type of work we do but it’s worth it” said Howard.
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Howard, a 2012 graduate of Watchung Hills Regional High School, is a fire controlman aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of three cruisers forward-deployed to the region.
“I’m the primary missile manager for the tomahawk and harpoon weapons systems,” said Howard.
Howard credits success in the Navy to lessons learned in Green Brook.
“I come from a family of fire fighters and EMTs, so being able to think on your feet, just being resourceful, I learned that from them,” said Howard.
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet's area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
“The port visits are great,” said Howard. “We also get a lot of on-the-job training because we are in the thick of it, in the middle of making history.”
With more than 50 percent of the world's shipping tonnage and a third of the world's crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy's presence in Yokosuka is part of that long-standing commitment.
"The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It's not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace," said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. "It is, and will continue to be our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who've made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference."
A Navy cruiser is a multi-mission ship that can operate independently or as part of a larger group of ships at sea. The ship is equipped with a vertical launching system, tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns, and a phalanx close-in weapons system.
Approximately 300 men and women serve aboard the ship. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. They do everything from maintaining gas turbine engines and operating the highly sophisticated Aegis weapons system to driving the ship and operating small boats.
Serving in the Navy means Howard is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Howard is most proud of being involved in the harpoon missile live-fire training last year.
“I’m one of only two harpoon techs on board, so we were in charge of the maintenance and operation of the weapon systems during that evolution,” said Howard. “The work was really grueling but at the end of the day it was worth it.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Howard and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“I enjoy serving in the Navy because it gives me the opportunities to see the things I thought I would never be able to see,” said Howard. “Also, it makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger and I’m a part of history.”