I had been sailing for MSC [Military Sealift
Command] a couple of years; my father said
he had something that I might appreciate. It
was a small box full of various memorabilia.
Turns out I had a great uncle, Capt. Inman
Sealby (my maiden name is Sealby). Now
there are some amazing stories about Inman,
but I knew nothing of a maritime history in
my family when I started my career.
I fell into it by accident. I was raised in Evergreen,
Colo. I had decided to go into medicine, like my dad.
But he and I had a heart-to-heart, and he discouraged me. I’m a bit of an idealist, and a romantic, and
the human body is amazing. However, this was when
medicine was becoming a business and not a calling.
I also realized I hadn’t really thought about what I
wanted to do, what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I listened to my father. I talked to my high school
counselor. Eventually, I decided I would apply to the
federal academies. By the time I made that decision,
I was a senior. I would have to wait a year to know
whether I was accepted at an academy.
I applied for a Rotary exchange scholarship, and
it was granted. At 17, I was going to be traveling by
myself to Manila, where I would attend the University
of the Philippines, Diliman campus. It was in the
Philippines I learned I was accepted at the United
States Merchant Marine Academy. The sea-going culture in the Philippines is extensive. It was my Filipino
friends who launched me into a sea-going career.
After graduating from Kings Point, I served two
years as an aviation intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy.
I joined MSC in 1990. My first ship was the USNS Mercy,
deploying in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
I’ve been all over Asia — Japan, Singapore, Taiwan,
Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia,
Palau, Guam, Saipan; the Middle East — Saudi Arabia,
UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait … some of Europe — Portugal,
Spain, Italy, Greece, also England. I haven’t spent
much time in Central or South America. I’ve spent
some personal time in those areas. So, I guess that
leaves Africa and Scandinavia.
Trenton is forward deployed. I expect Trenton to be
in the Mediterranean for the next several years, which
is important to appreciate because you have to plan
differently for the ship when it isn’t returning to the
United States for the foreseeable future.
As part of our mission, the Trenton embarks a group
of approximately 50 USN personnel. The first group
came from 17 different parent commands. I have 26
Civilian Mariners as the ship’s crew.
We were/are a pretty diversified bunch of people. We
came together as one ship-one crew pretty quickly. And
though we all have different roles to play, we all have a
common goal. That’s the most important thing to keep
in mind. A new ship and a new class of ship for MSC,
let’s just say the learning curve has been steep.
No matter what the day may bring — changes
in tasking, weather, personnel — I do my best to
safeguard the crew and the ship, while completing
whatever mission I’ve been tasked to do. What does
that entail? A lot of coordination, collaboration and
teamwork both on and off the ship. It’s calculating fuel
requirements, capability of the ship and the crew, it’s
ensuring that while I’m operating the ship I am doing
so with a broad spectrum of regulatory requirements,
federal requirements and international requirements.
I will usually start my day at sea, or in port, with
some exercise. It gets the blood flowing to my brain.
If I am underway, we may have an evolution with
helicopters or small boats; generally, we will have
some kind of training each day. In port, we work with
Capt. Susan Orsini
MASTER, USNS TRENTON
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