By Steve Watterworth for The Island Eye News
An Isle of Palms, South Carolina, native and 2012 Wando High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Kearsarge.
Ensign Caitlin Armstrong is a surface warfare officer aboard the amphibious transport dock operating out of Norfolk.
Kearsarge, one of the Navy’s most advanced amphibious ships, is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts.
A Navy surface warfare officer is responsible for driving the ship when the captain is off the bridge.“We also work with communications when underway,” said Armstrong.
“My southern hospitality and a love of the water has given me an appreciation for the oceans we navigate,” Armstrong said. “When we went boating on the Intracoastal Waterway, they were perfect. When underway, I am reminded that they are the same waters I was on as a kid.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Kearsarge. More than 400 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 700 Marines can be embarked. USS Kearsarge is capable of transporting Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and landing craft.
“The success of our Surface Force ships is measured by our ability to provide Fleet Commanders with combat naval power at sea and to project that power ashore where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander, Naval Surface Forces. “It’s hard work to ready ships for combat operations at sea – it takes the talent of an entire crew working well together. I’m extremely proud of the each and every surface warrior’s contributions to the Navy’s enduring mission of protecting and defending America, at home and around the world.”
These amphibious transport dock ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.
Armstrong has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“I am the first in my family to serve in the Navy,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong’s proudest accomplishment was being qualified as an Officer of the Deck.
“I have earned the Captain’s trust,” said Armstrong.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Armstrong and other USS Kearsarge sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“It’s made me more disciplined and offered leadership experiences I would not have found elsewhere,” Armstrong said. “I have been in charge of a 45,000-ton ship worth billions.”