NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN – Fireman Steven Prince, a Newalla, Oklahoma, native, was influenced to join because he has a brother, two cousins and a sister-in-law who are active duty Navy.
"They influenced me to join the Navy because of how it has built them to be stronger, better people," said Prince.
Now, a year and a half year later and half a world away at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Prince serves aboard an avenger-class mine countermeasures ship (MCM), USS Gladiator, tasked to search and dispose of enemy mines in the world’s most dynamic maritime region as the leading-edge of the Navy.
“The exciting part of being stationed in Bahrain is when a casualty happens because you get to show that you know what you are doing to stop the casualty and the challenging part is being in such a small department of 24 persons total and to keep up with that and the other tasks,” said Prince.
Prince, a 2013 graduate of Thunderbird Youth Academy, is an engineman aboard the Manama, Bahrain-based ship, one of four MCMs forward-deployed to the Arabian Gulf in the Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet operating under Task Force 52.
“We are responsible for maintaining all equipment for readiness condition in the spaces we own,” said Prince. “For example, we conduct preventive maintenance on all engines in the main machinery room and monitor and maintain them underway as the main machinery room operator. That is just a piece of what I do.”
Task Force 52 plans and executes mine warfare operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet’s operational objectives.
Prince credits success in the MCM force, and in the Navy, to many of the lessons learned in Newalla.
“My father taught me how to work with tools and that is what I do on a daily basis and it allowed me to be able to work efficiently on any equipment,” said Prince.
USS Gladiator is 224 feet long, 39 feet wide and weighs over 1,300 tons. Four diesel engines, designed to have very low magnetic and acoustic signatures, help push the ship through the water at 16 miles per hour.
As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the U.S. and partner nations are committed to taking all action necessary to reduce the risk of mines to support the continuous free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation throughout the region. MCMs are outfitted with the means to detect and disable them, ensuring sea lanes remain open for military, commercial and civilian vessels. These ships use a variety of novel and conventional sweeping measures, including sonar and video systems, cable cutters and remote control mine-detonating devices.
“You have to maintain all the engines and you need them to get underway successfully,” said Prince.
The Navy’s mine countermeasures in the U.S. 5th Fleet are divided between three separate legs, consisting of airborne, surface and underwater methods. These consist of the MCMs such as USS Gladiator, MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, and unmanned underwater vehicles, as well as expeditionary explosive ordnance disposal teams. All three legs work together to hunt and neutralize mines.
“I’m incredibly proud to serve with each of our Sailors, Coastguardsmen and Marines forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, deputy commander for NAVCENT/ U.S. 5th Fleet. “They represent the very best of our country and serve as volunteers in a complex and dynamic region that’s vital to our security. I am honored to work alongside these warriors.”
The Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of ocean, and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 20 countries, includes three critical choke points; the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
“The exciting part of being stationed here is the placement; I never thought I would live in another country when I joined,” said Prince.
Serving in the Navy means Prince 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, Prince is most proud of learning to understand complex things in the engineering plant that he never thought he would. For example, if something breaks, he can figure out why it broke and how to fix it. He had never had that skill until he joined the Navy. He also loves to train new people and is now part of the engineering training team.
“I get excited when I am able to train in something I love to do,” said Prince.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Prince and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs
“It means I am brave enough to be part of a family that not only fights for freedom but believes in it,” said Prince. “It takes a lot to be able to make that life changing choice, but I did and I knew I made the right one. It is a satisfying feeling to be apart of something bigger than myself.”