WATERS OFF THE COAST OF JAPAN — An Oak Ridge native and 2013 Oak Ridge High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the guided-missile destroyer, USS Stethem (DDG 63).
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bobbie Kerley is an Operations Specialist aboard the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer operating out of Yokosuka, Japan. Stethem is one of eight destroyers forward-deployed to Yokosuka.
Approximately 300 men and women serve aboard the ship. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the destroyer 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.
“The Navy has taught me how to be consistent because a lot of people do depend on us, everybody ship-wide,” said Kerley. “If you’re not consistent you could put somebody’s life in danger. So being responsible and consistent is a big thing.”
A Navy Operations Specialist is responsible for maintaining the ship’s Combat Information Center displays of strategic and tactical information and providing technical information and assistance related to Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, Mine Warfare, Naval Gunfire Support, and search and rescue operations.
“As an operations specialist our role is a lot more important than I originally thought, said Kerley. “We actually help with safe travel of the ship, so I like that we have an important role.
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.
“Our alliance is rooted in shared interests and shared values,” said Adm. Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. “It’s not hyperbole to say that the entire world has benefited from the U.S.-Japan alliance. While our alliance helped stabilize the region after the Second World War, it also enabled the Japanese people to bring about an era of unprecedented economic growth. And for the last six decades, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have worked side by side with the Japan Self Defense Force to protect and advance peace and freedom.”
Forward-deployed sailors are crucial to the success of the global navy mission and earn high praise from their leaders.
“Being forward deployed makes us better at our jobs,” said Kerley. “And even though we are working a lot it makes us a better worker and it makes us better as a person. I think jobs after this will seem a lot easier.”
Sailors serving abroad in Japan are highly motivated and quickly adapt to changing conditions, explained Navy officials.
“I love the food, the culture, and the people,” said Kerley. “It’s just such a different experience. I mean how many people can even say they’ve been to Japan?”
A navy destroyer 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 Phalanx close-in weapons systems.
Sailors play a vital role in the overall military mission around the world.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone for peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” said Harris.
Stethem is operating as part of the Ronald Reagan Strike Group in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of it’s allies and partners in the region.