SASEBO, Japan – Petty Officer 3rd Class Stanton Robinson, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, wanted to serve in the Navy because of the opportunities it provides.
Now, four years later and half a world away, Robinson serves aboard one of the Navy’s most dependable amphibious ships at Fleet Activities Sasebo, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“The ship is stressful at first because it is so fast-paced, we work every day, all day, and there’s not many days off,” said Robinson. “It’s not bad though, you just have to get used to doing the same thing every day and seeing the same people every day.”
Robinson, a 2013 graduate of Memphis East High School, is a ship's serviceman aboard the forward-deployed Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland in Sasebo, Japan.
“I help boost morale on the ship, that’s my main job,” said Robinson. “I also work the ship’s store and make sure it’s stocked. I help run the laundry services, vending machines, and the barber shop. I also cut hair and I’m not terrible at it.”
Robinson credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Memphis.
“My mom would always tell me treat people the way you would want to be treated,” said Robinson. “I feel like I was better prepared as a person because of my mom and the things she taught me.”
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet's area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
“It’s tough being deployed here because I’m so far away from what I’m used to but on the flip side I get to save a lot of money and I’m learning new things about my job,” said Robinson.
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. The Navy's presence in Sasebo is part of that long-standing commitment.
"The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It's not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace," said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. "It is, and will continue to be our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who've made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference."
USS Ashland is 610 feet long. The ship can travel at speeds in excess of 20 nautical miles per-hour. Ashland is one of eight Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships currently in service. The ship’s primary purpose is to launch equipment and personnel for amphibious missions. Approximately 22 officers and 390 enlisted men and women make up the ship's company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the ship running smoothly. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.
Serving in the Navy means Robinson is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Robinson is most proud of proceeding with his enlisted surface warfare qualification.
“It’s a motivational thing mostly because it shows others that they can get theirs as well and your chain of command sees that you are working hard to advance your career,” said Robinson. “The other part of it is that you can learn more about the ship.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Robinson and other Sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“I love serving in the Navy because it provides me the opportunities to succeed as well as a laying down a foundation for my future,” said Robinson.