YOKOSUKA, Japan – Petty Officer 1st Class Sarah Neal, a native of Lafayette, Indiana, joined the Navy for a more stable career.
Now, seven years later and half a world away, Neal serves with Submarine Group 7, supporting U.S. Navy submarines patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.
Neal, a 2010 graduate of McCutcheon High School, is an information systems technician with the Yokosuka, Japan-based command, forward-deployed as part of Submarine Force Pacific.
“We make sure computers are up and running,” said Neal.
Neal credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Lafayette.
“My parents taught me the value of hard work and having a good work ethic,” said Neal. “No job is too small, you are never too great to do the little things, keep yourself humble.”
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 important to know the impact we have on the mission out here and the relationships we have with the Japanese, knowing our importance of being over here,” said Neal.
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.
“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.”
Submarine Group 7 is comprised of submarines deployed to the Western Pacific and a permanent, forward-deployed fleet including the submarine tenders USS Frank Cable and USS Emory S. Land and four fast-attack nuclear submarines.
Attack submarines are designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; strike targets ashore with cruise missiles; carry and deliver Navy SEALs; carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.
Serving in the Navy means Neal 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.”
There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Neal is most proud of being a career counselor for her division.
“I enjoy being able to influence the younger sailors along the way,” said Neal. “I like being a mentor and seeing them succeed.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Neal and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“It’s good to know I’m here protecting those back home,” added Neal.