SASEBO, Japan – A Blanchester native and 2016 Blanchester High School graduate is serving in Guam in the U.S. Navy aboard the expeditionary submarine tender USS Emory S. Land.
Seaman Heather O’Neill is a gunner’s mate aboard one of two submarine tenders in the U.S. Navy. The ship routinely deploys to protect alliances, enhance partnerships, and respond if a natural disaster occurs in the region.
A Navy gunner’s mate is responsible for maintaining weapons systems.
O’Neill is proud to serve in the Pacific and fondly recalls memories of Blanchester.
“When I was in high school, my principal always had integrity and taught us to always make sure you earn your paycheck,” said O’Neill. “That encouraged me to work hard and be honest and do my best.”
O’Neill’s proudest accomplishment was being selected as the top sailor among her junior sailor peers.
The Emory S. Land made a routine port visit in Sasebo, Japan while conducting an exercise.
Moments like that makes it worth serving around the world ready at all times to defend America’s interests. 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 U.S. has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world.
The Navy’s presence in Sasebo is part of that long-standing commitment, explained Navy officials.
With a crew of 42 officers and 600 enlisted, submarine tenders are 649 feet long and weigh approximately 23,493 tons. Their mission is to provide maintenance, repairs, hotel services, weapons reload and logistics support to deployed guided-missile and fast-attack submarines.
Both of the U.S. Navy’s submarine tenders are homeported in Apra Harbor, Guam, and rotate between deployment to support the forward-operating in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and in port in Guam to support in-port and visiting units.
Submarine tenders are additionally capable of providing repair and logistic services to deployed surface ships.
“It’s cool because in my rate we take the submariners to the range and make sure their qualifications are good,” said O’Neill. “It’s a a lot of fun to work with the people I work with and I learned a lot. The Navy makes me proud to say that I helped protect the country. My cousin looks up to me a lot and feels like he can learn the military through my perspective.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, O’Neill and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy is a selfless risk,” said O’Neill. “It allows me to make sure my family and friends are safe.”
Seventh Fleet celebrates its 75th year in 2018. Its area of operation 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 sailorst.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana serves with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.