(Editor’s note: The following story was submitted to VenangoExtra.com and has been published in its original form.)
YOKOSUKA, Japan – A Tionesta, Pennsylvania, native and 2007 West Forest High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy forward-deployed aboard USS Blue Ridge.
Petty Officer 2nd Class William McCracken is a gunner’s mate aboard the ship operating out of Yokosuka, Japan. The ship routinely deploys to protect alliances, enhance partnerships, and be ready to respond if a natural disaster occurs in the region.
A Navy gunner’s mate is responsible for the operation and maintenance of guided missile launching systems, underwater explosive weapons such as torpedoes, rockets and missiles, gun mounts and other ordnance equipment, and small arms magazines.
McCracken is proud to serve in the Pacific and fondly recalls memories of Tionesta.
“Growing up in a small, country town there was always a sense of community,” said McCracken. “Since it is a small town, we always rely on each other for support and I believe that being from Tionesta helped me in the Navy. I am able to reach out to people and give help a little easier than others.”
Moments like that makes it worth serving around the world ready at all times to defend America’s interests. 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 Yokosuka is part of that long-standing commitment, explained Navy officials.
USS Blue Ridge serves as the flagship for the U.S. Seventh Fleet. It is one of only two U.S. Navy command ships in the world, providing command and control for fleet commanders.
“Being stationed here, we are on the front lines dealing with other countries,” said McCracken. “But it’s necessary because we are supporting and reaching out to our allies and assisting in humanitarian efforts in third world countries.”
McCracken is also proud of having a vital role in the overhauling of five ordnance programs, three security programs, physically building up ten gun mounts, and organizing two armories. He also was part of the training of over 70 people in the fundamentals and operations of small arms weaponry aboard the ship. He has shown dedication to the ship’s mission.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, McCracken and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving here in the Navy has presented me a with a lot of difficult challenges,” said McCracken. “There’s a lot of situations where there is no choice but to move forward.”
Seventh Fleet, which is celebrating its 75th year in 2018, 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. Seventh Fleet’s area of operation 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 in the 7th Fleet.
– By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Robert Zahn, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs (navyoutreach.blogspot.com)