Picayune Native Patrols Middle East Maritime Region
NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Seaman John McHugh, a Picayune, Mississippi, native decided to continue a family tradition of military service.
Now, one year later and half a world away at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, McHugh keeps watch aboard the cyclone-class coastal patrol ship (PC), USS Firebolt, patrolling one of the world’s most dynamic maritime region as the leading-edge of the Navy. “This is my first ship and I'm really excited to be here,” said McHugh. “It is challenging being so far from home and serving a foreign country, but I am enjoying the experience.”
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jackson G. Brown
McHugh, a 2018 graduate of Picayune Memorial High School, is a quartermaster aboard the Manama, Bahrain-based ship, one of 10 PCs forward-deployed to the Arabian Gulf in the Navy’s 5th Fleet. “As a quartermaster, I am responsible for navigating the ship safely through the sea and in-and-out of port,” said McHugh. McHugh credits success in the coastal patrol force, and in the Navy, to many of the lessons learned in Picayune. “Growing up, I learned the importance of working hard and pushing your limits,” said McHugh. “Nothing comes easy in life and you have to earn everything you get.” USS Firebolt is 179 feet long, 25 feet wide and weighs nearly 320 tons. Four diesel engines help push the ship through water at 40 miles per hour an is perfectly suited for the complex waters of the Arabian Gulf, where over 80 percent of maritime security operations take place in less than 39 feet of water. The ship’s light tonnage, powerful propulsion plants and shallow draft mean it can move nimbly in crowded coastal waters. This platform is also used to escort larger ships such as destroyers, protect infrastructure like oil platforms and distilling platforms, and frequently participates in exercises with regional partners. The PCs operate under U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 55, responsible for surface ships in the region. The Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of ocean, and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. “It is unique being out to sea and seeing all the ships on the water,” said McHugh. “Navigating the ship safely is a big responsibility.” Serving in the Navy means McHugh 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.
“I’m incredibly proud to serve with each of our Sailors, Coastguardsmen and Marines forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, deputy commander for NAVCENT/ U.S. 5th Fleet. “They represent the very best of our country and serve as volunteers in a complex and dynamic region that’s vital to our security. I am honored to work alongside these warriors.” 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, McHugh is most proud of joining the Navy. “It is important to me because I always wanted to serve my country,” said McHugh. As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, McHugh and other Sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs. “It means everything to me,” said McHugh. “I take pride in knowing that I am contributing to the safety and security of my family and friends back home.”
Article By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David R. Finley Jr., Navy Office of Community Outreach