PHILIPPINE SEA -- A Montrose, Colo. native and 2011 Montrose High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56).
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jenny Fuentes is an Operations Specialist who also serves as the Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmer aboard John S. McCain, forward-deployed to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.
SAR swimmers are vital to the readiness of U.S. Navy ships and serve aboard all units underway. They are trained to recover individuals from the water within minutes and provide life-saving support in an emergency.
“Saving lives is important, we are there for others in case they fall overboard,” said Fuentes. “I really enjoy the thrill of it. I knew I was meant for this, ever since I stepped foot in the Navy and I knew what SAR swimming was.”
To become a SAR swimmer, Fuentes had to pass a challenging four-week training course in San Diego, Calif. Being a SAR swimmer aboard John S. McCain is a collateral duty, which means that Fuentes volunteered to perform the duties of a rescue swimmer in addition to her job requirements as an Operations Specialist.
“It’s my favorite job on board,” said Fuentes. “I like being able to show other junior enlisted Sailors that they have an opportunity to contribute in a big way outside of their rate.”
In addition to the added responsibilities required in her role as a rescue swimmer, Fuentes takes it upon herself to be a positive representative for the SAR community.
“I take a lot of pride in being a SAR swimmer,” said Fuentes. “I want to step in and not only save people, but teach people about it and hopefully recruit more people into going into the SAR program.”
This is Fuentes’ second consecutive tour in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, having previously served aboard USS Antietam (CG 54), also forward-deployed to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. John S. McCain has contributed to various critical missions promoting regional peace and prosperity, including integrated operations last fall with the French Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) focusing on anti-submarine warfare tactics between the three navies. In November, John S. McCain joined ships from the Royal Australian Navy and JMSDF for the first phase of exercise Malabar 2021, and transited to the Andaman Sea through the Strait of Malacca with the Royal Australian Navy.
John S. McCain also operated as part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, and operated in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Indian Ocean and Philippine Sea.
Most recently, John S. McCain participated in the annual U.S.-Japan Bilateral Advanced Warfighting Training exercise (BAWT) which focuses on combined training and interoperability of coalition forces, and enables real-world proficiency and readiness in response to any contingency.
“It is hard work, but I think we gain more experience compared to some other fleets,” said Fuentes. “We will be able to take that hard work and experience when we leave here and we will look really good going wherever we go next.”
John S. McCain is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50 to 70 ships and submarines across the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.