WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (NNS) – A Houston, Texas, native is serving aboard an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile U.S. Navy destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52), forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Christopher Oldham is the work center supervisor for Combat Frequencies Division aboard USS Barry as part of the United States’ furthest forward-deployed naval forces.
After completing schooling for his specific job function, he reported to Barry as his first assignment. Oldham’s job is to troubleshoot and maintain elements that make up combat systems aboard Barry, ensuring all weapons systems are intact and functioning in order to defend from, or neutralize any immediate threat. Oldham’s job proves to be one amongst many fundamental assets required for Barry’s forward operational status.
“I’m in charge of making sure that all the weapons communications can talk to each other and that we complete the mission,” said Oldham. “We work in the background and, just like any network professional, people don’t realize that we’re here until they need us.”
An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, Barry is 505 feet long or more than 1 ½ football fields. The ship is 66 feet wide, weighs more than 9,000 tons, and its four gas turbine engines can push the ship through the ocean at more than 30 nautical miles per hour. Barry is the fourth United States Navy ship named in honor of “Father of the American Navy”, Commodore John Barry (1745-1803).
Oldham joined the U.S. Navy after attending college for two years. His mother became ill and in-turn, she asked him to join the service because she could no longer afford to assist Oldham financially, despite him attending class and working full-time.
“She wanted to see me succeed. She passed away two months before I went to boot camp, so she didn’t get to see me go or graduate,” said Oldham. “That’s helped me through the Navy, especially on the days I don’t want to be here, I just think of how proud my mom would be if she was still here.”
Oldham had a huge support group, consisting of family, friends and teachers, who kept him on the right track.
“I’m 100% a product of the support of all the family and friends I have back home,” said Oldham. “I’m grateful I had those people push me in the direction that they did because without them I don’t know where I’d be. I’m thankful they believed in me and saw the person I could become.”
The experience of being in the military can be taxing under some circumstances, but Oldham stated that it pans out for the best at most times. He has sailed through the Panama Canal aboard a warship, visited remote areas, and most recently, became engaged with his fiancé, who he met in Hawaii.
“My entire Navy career has been one blessing after another, it’s gone exactly how I could have hoped for,” said Oldham. “I have an apartment, I’m engaged to the love of my life, and it’s all working out. I would not trade anything that I’ve experienced in the Navy for any other experience.”
Approximately 35 officers and 265 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and each keep part of the 2 billion dollar destroyer running smoothly – this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.
Fast, maneuverable and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required war fighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any tasking overseas. With multi-mission capabilities in surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare, ballistic missile defense, and humanitarian assistance, Arleigh Burke destroyers, such as Barry, excel as the Navy’s premier fighting warship.
Assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, Barry Sailors are currently operating throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in support of MultiSail 17. MultiSail 17 is a bilateral training exercise improving interoperability between the U.S. and Japanese forces. This exercise benefits from realistic, shared training enhancing our ability to work together to confront any contingency.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile combat ships, Oldham and his fellow crew members understand they are part of a forward-deployed team that is heavily relied upon to help protect and defend America across the world’s oceans.