Master, USNS Spearhead
surprises a few people. And I haven’t met anybody yet
who calls me the “old man.” I don’t think they can.
I have an extremely supportive family. My wife also
has a mariner’s license to sail on ships. I met her on a
ship. So she completely understands everything.
Having the lead ship in the class, there is a certain
amount of pride that goes along with that. Everybody
wanted to be part of it. We could almost pick who we
wanted; I have some of the best mariners that MSC has
to offer. Personalities jibe beautifully here, so everybody works well together. It is a real small crew, almost
a family. A lot of times, it is the “engineers versus deckies” unofficial rivalry, but on this ship, everybody helps
There is a lot more work in bringing out a first-of-class ship than there is on a ship that is established and
has been sailing for a while. We are essentially writing
the book for the other ships that are coming down the
line. There is a lot more work, a lot more involved, but
a certain sense of pride that it’s ours. We did it.
It was actually more difficult for people with more
experience to operate this ship because you almost have
to unlearn a couple of things and get a little bit out of
your comfort zone … because you are not used to having
a ship with the capabilities of this one. For those who are
coming in with less experience, it is almost easier for
them because they don’t have to unlearn ideas.
These are pretty amazing ships. We’re still working
through a lot of the ship’s systems and helping develop
them to support the armed forces, and there really isn’t
a book written on that right now. I think that is one of
the biggest motivators that just keeps us going.
We’re the ones writing the book as we go, and maybe
10 to 15 years down the road, when we’re old and sitting
out there at the picnic table and just kind of looking
over, we can just look back and say, “You know, at one
time, we really made a difference.” ■
I’m a Navy brat, born in Concord, Calif. Dad was in explosive ordnance disposal. I was raised in
Connecticut, Northern Virginia, Italy, South Korea and
the Norfolk [Va.] area. Dad later worked for Military
Sealift Command (MSC), and I started working for
MSC the morning after graduation from the Merchant
Marine Academy, 24 years ago.
Why I chose MSC? We have a huge variety of ships.
In my career, I’ve been on 30-something different ships.
The Joint-High-Speed Vessel Spearhead is my ninth different ship [to command]. I’ve had command of everything from the smaller ATFs [fleet ocean tugs] and ARSs
[rescue and salvage ships] up to a cable layer and AOEs
[fast combat support ships] that are gas turbine-powered
50,000 tonners that will do in excess of 30 knots.
Just the variety of work keeps it interesting. It helps
me to be a better mariner. It doesn’t get dull or boring
because it’s not just doing the same thing every day.
Going to sea just never gets old. Some people dream
about traveling; I get paid to do it. At 46, I look like I’m
too young to be a captain. It’s one of those things that
“I have some of the best mariners that MSC has to offer. Personalities jibe
beautifully here, so everybody works well together. It is a real small crew,
almost a family. A lot of times, it is the ‘engineers versus deckies’ unofficial
rivalry, but on this ship, everybody helps everybody else.”