YOKOSUKA, Japan – Sailors and Marines are getting a chance to integrate and expand their combined skillsets through an ongoing liaison exchange program aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).
According to staff exchange officer Capt. Angel Maldonado, a native of Bronx, New York, assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) in Okinawa, Japan, the focus of the ten-week integration is to build 7th Fleet’s U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps team in alignment with the U.S. national strategic objectives.
According to the most recent Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, America must contend with the reality that the distribution of power across the world is changing and creating new threats.
Maldonado added that the partnership between the Navy and Marine Corps requires shifting from traditional power projection to meeting the new challenges associated with maintaining a persistent naval forward presence.
The Indo-Pacific region has a long history of power projection through presence. For more than 70 years the region has benefited from routine U.S. operations to enforce international norms and strengthen partnerships and alliances. Through naval exercises, alongside America’s allies and partners, and integrating the Navy and Marine Corps, 7th Fleet can continue to project a strong and stabilizing presence in the region.
Maldonado is one of only a select few officers chosen to participate in the exchange program aboard 7th Fleet.
“I am a supply officer by trade. Currently, I am serving on my Naval Postgraduate School payback tour as an Operational Contract Support (OCS) Advisor for III MEF in Camp Courtney,” said Maldonado. “So far, my contributions to 7th Fleet have been to provide OCS support because this billet is not organic to the Navy’s structure. I also serve as a [liaison officer] to provide the 7th Fleet staff with information on Marine Corps activities.”
Maldonado is no stranger to Navy commands.
“Throughout my career, I have served more than six years at five Navy commands, to include an operational tour with 5th Fleet as the supply officer for Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade Bahrain,” said Maldonado. “For me, it’s another day with my Navy brethren.”
Maldonado stated that despite serving at several Navy commands, he continues to gain knowledge and insight from those he meets and the unique opportunities these joint assignments provide.
“Primarily, I have focused my attention on supply operations. Despite my experience with the Navy, this is the first time I am actually learning about an occupational specialty,” he said. “The educational experience is quite intriguing, because it provides a new depth of supply operations and responsibilities not present within the Marine supply community.”
He said a large part of his focus has been to learn about 7th Fleet’s organization and structure, from the staff itself down to each subordinate unit in the Fleet.
Arriving at a new command can be daunting, especially when it’s a complete culture shift to how your native branch normally operates. Many Marines go their entire career without having the opportunity to serve aboard naval vessels, but Maldonado was willing to take on the challenge.
“I mostly expected my first time serving aboard a ship to involve a steep learning curve to understand naval operations and the life associated with both living and working on a ship,” he said. “I was also expecting to resolve interoperability shortfalls within the Navy and Marine Corps supply systems by creating a method to order Marine Corps supplies from the Navy’s supply department.”
Maldonado said that, although he had a lot to learn about serving on a ship, being here has given him a feeling of nostalgia for his days as a young enlisted Marine.
“Life aboard a ship brought me back to the experience I felt as a junior enlisted Marine, when everything in my environment felt new. The learning curve was steep, maybe steeper than I expected,” he said. “I’ve also had to shift my focus from my original project on improving supply requisition interoperability between the Navy and Marine Corps. Instead I pivoted my attention towards working with the contracting department at the Fleet Logistics Center in Yokosuka in an effort to improve sea logistics distribution through the use of commercial options in this area of operations.”
Maldonado said he feels like he has succeeded in achieving the goals he set out to.
“My interaction with Navy Supply provided information that resolved a Navy distribution requirement in Okinawa,” he said. “Additionally I would say that I am taking other steps towards improving sea logistics distribution that would have never occurred absent my staff exchange.”
Maldonado said that, while the terminology may be different, the supply department acts very much in the capacity of the entire Marine Corps logistics community.
“Marine Corps supply is primarily responsible for property accountability, budgeting, warehouse procurement, and requisitions,” he said. “The ship’s supply officer, Lt. Victor Guan, provided me an in-depth explanation of how supply operates in the Navy. For the Navy, the supply department is responsible for all of the Marine Corps responsibilities I mentioned, and others such as the post office, finance, food service…and a lot more.”
Maldonado expressed his deep appreciation for the Navy team supporting him.
“I want to recognize the entire N4 staff and Lt. Victor Guan for welcoming me to the ship, integrating me into their operations, and educating me on the Navy. I also want to thank Capt. Brickhaus and Lt. Cmdr. Peters at Navy Fleet Logistics Command,” he said.
As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50-70 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.