Chicago native serves aboard versatile U.S. Warship half-a-world away
By Robert Zahn
Seaman Clarkensy Smith, a native of Chicago, joined the Navy to travel and see the world.
Now, one year later and half a world away, Smith serves aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.“It’s a hectic life here on the ship, there’s a lot of stuff you have to do,” said Smith. “There’s always a checklist you need to do and if you don’t get it done then you have to stay late and finish it.”
Smith, a 2014 graduate of North Chicago High School, is a boatswain’s mate aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of three cruisers forward-deployed to the region.
“I’m on the maintenance team so we take care of the life jackets and safety equipment, mooring lines, as well as the preservation of the ship,” said Smith.
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Smith credits success in the Navy to lessons learned in Chicago.
“My dad taught me responsibilities,” said Smith. “That was his main focus, to teach me how to be successful, like going to college, working and joining the military.”
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.
“Right now from what I’ve experienced, I haven’t been here long, but I’m told we have a crazy work schedule because of where we are located in the world,” said Smith. “I do work a lot here, sometimes working until midnight or until the job gets done.”
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 Smith 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. Smith is most proud of being able to keep a positive attitude towards himself and others since joining the Navy.
“It’s been tough so far but just staying positive while being out here is most important,” said Smith.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Smith and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“I feel proud to accomplish something great with my life which is to serve my country,” said Smith.
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