Ellwood City native stationed at Japan naval base

The following story was contributed by Mass Communication Specialist 1st First Class Pat Migliaccio, Navy Office of Community Outreach:

YOKOSUKA, Japan – A 2008 Riverside High School graduate and Ellwood City, Pa. native is serving aboard USS John S. McCain, living and working at a Navy base in Japan.

Ensign Michael Smiley is a gunnery officer serving aboard the ship operating out of Japan. Often called “the tip of the spear,”Yokosuka is located approximately 35 miles south of Tokyo and accommodates our nation’s furthest forward deployed naval forces.

An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, John S. McCain is 505 feet long at just over one and a half football fields. The ship is 66 feet wide, weighs more than 9,200 tons, and four gas turbine engines can push the ship through the ocean at more than 30 knots.

The ship is named in honor of two famous John McCains. Annapolis alumni, John Sidney McCain, Sr., and his son, John Sydney, Jr., both served in World War II and became the first father-son pair ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral. They are the grandfather and father, respectively, of Senator John McCain, who himself served as a Navy pilot during Vietnam and achieved the rank of captain.

As a 25 year-old with numerous responsibilities, Smiley said he is learning about himself as a leader, Sailor and a person.

”Joining the Navy has been humbling,” Smiley said. “Some days it seems like you’ve given an impossible task. But you’re never alone. You always have your Sailors behind you and before you know it, the job is done.”

He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the McCain’s 300-member crew, living thousands of miles from home, and protecting America on the world’s oceans.

“Life on the McCain has been a blast,” said Smiley. “We’re a good ship with great Sailors willing to commit to teamwork.”

Assigned to the Navy’s Seventh Fleet and Destroyer Squadron 15, McCain sailors are continuously on watch throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and remain among our nation’s first responders. After just returning from a four month patrol, McCain is already preparing for her next underway period. Routinely assigned to Carrier Strike Group operations, leading new international exercises, and representing freedom of the seas in challenged waters, the demand for John S. McCain has never been higher. However, despite a demanding overseas tempo, each sailor carefully serves his role in support of America’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy.

Approximately 40 officers and 260 enlisted men make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the $2 billion destroyer running smoothly. This includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.

“Our Navy presence has to be where it matters and we have to be there when it matters. I am so proud and amazed by the knowledge McCain sailors display and the work they do every day,” said Cmdr. Chase Sargeant, the ship’s commanding officer. Their professionalism, motivation and commitment to the Navy are genuinely inspiring.”

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 alike excel as the Navy’s premier fighting warship.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile combat ships, Smiley and other John S. McCain sailors 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.

“The Navy forces you to grow,” Smiley said. “When I joined it was my first time away from home and out of the country. I learned responsibility and how to take care of myself.”

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