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Queens Native Serves Aboard U.S. Navy Warship Half A World Away

Photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward

Seaman Maleke Abbott, a native of Queens, New York, wanted to join the Navy to further his education. 

Now, one year later and half a world away, Abbott 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. 

“It’s like a regular job working on the ship, you just have to deal with tough people sometimes but you learn from them and move on,” said Abbott. 

Abbott, a 2014 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, is a quartermaster aboard the forward-deployed Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland in Sasebo, Japan. 

“Our job is to ensure the safe navigation of the ship in and out of port and in the open ocean,” said Abbott. 

Abbott credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Queens. 

“Growing up in New York and comparing it to the Navy, there is actually a lot in common,” said Abbott. “I was used to a lot of diversity so being in the Navy you’re exposed to so many different kinds of people and ethnicities. You learn to respect people and learn to work with them.” 

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. 

“We get to go to all of these different countries so being deployed over here gives you the opportunity to travel,” said Abbott. 

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 Abbott 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, Abbott is most proud of graduating Navy boot camp and quartermaster Navy “A” school. 

“I’m glad that I was able to graduate from boot camp and after that, A school,” said Abbott. “They both were tough for me but I just fought through and finished. Finishing school was tough because it was a lot of studying and a lot of hours. If you don’t finish, then you become an undesignated seaman and they put you anywhere so there’s a lot of pressure.” 

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Abbott and other Sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs. 

“When I first got here, when you finally start meeting everyone and learning your job, things get easier,” said Abbott. “I feel proud to be able to finish the initial stages of my career and actually start doing my job. I feel like now I can focus on my work and do the best I can.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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