Chattanooga Native Supports the Navy’s “Silent Service” Half A World Away In Guam
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 - by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Rae Moreno Navy Office of Community Outreach
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Heidi Cheek
A 2012 Notre Dame High School graduate and Chattanooga native is providing a critical maintenance capability to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force in the Pacific as part of a hybrid crew of sailors and civilian mariners working aboard the expeditionary submarine tender, USS Frank Cable.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Neil Howard is an information systems technician aboard the Guam-based submarine tender, one of only two such ships in the U.S. Navy. The Frank Cable and its crew provides maintenance and resupply capabilities both in port and at sea.
A Navy information systems technician works as a system administrator responsible for hardware and software of various communications systems on the ship.
Officer Howard credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Chattanooga.
“In Chattanooga, I learned to be accepting of everyone, despite our differences," said Officer Howard.
"There is a lot of diversity in the Navy, so that is really helpful.”
Guam is also home to four Los Angeles-class attack submarines, Frank Cable’s primary clients, but the ship can also provide repair and logistic services to other Navy ships like cruisers and destroyers. The submarine tenders provide maintenance, temporary berthing services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the Pacific Ocean as well as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
With a crew of more than 600, Frank Cable is 649 feet long and weighs approximately 23,493 tons.
According to officials at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the ships, submarines, aircraft and Navy personnel forward-deployed to Guam are part of the world’s largest fleet command and serve in a region critical to U.S. national security. The U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean. All told, there are more than 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serving in the Pacific.
The integrated crew of sailors and civilian mariners builds a strong fellowship while working alongside each other. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.
“I like being able to see a different side of the U.S. with Guam being a territory," Officer Howard said. "It's the U.S., but it's a completely different lifestyle and culture.”
Serving in the Navy means Officer 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.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Officer Howard is most proud of advancing through their career quickly.
“I have learned my job really well," said Officer Howard. "The job comes naturally to me now and I am already up for the next advancement.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Officer Howard and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“After the shooting at the recruiting station in Chattanooga, it really pushed me to join. I turned a tragedy into an inspiration for my service,” added Officer Howard. “I am glad that I get the opportunity to try and protect my hometown from the other side of the world now.”