SANTA RITA, Guam — A 2015 Northwest Whitfield High School graduate and Dalton native is providing a critical maintenance capability to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force in the Pacific as part of a hybrid crew of sailors and civilian mariners working aboard the expeditionary submarine tender, USS Frank Cable.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Balino is an engineman aboard the Guam-based submarine tender, one of only two such ships in the U.S. Navy. The Frank Cable and its crew provide maintenance and resupply capabilities both in port and at sea.
A Navy engineman operates, services and repairs internal combustion engines used to power ships and most small craft.
“Here we are focusing more with diesel engines. On USS Emory S. Land we have the opportunity to perform mechanical work on nuclear submarines,” said Balino.
Balino credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Dalton.
“My hometown taught me how to be a good leader," said Balino. "I take it with me when I'm put in the position to lead other sailors.”
Guam is also home to four Los Angeles-class attack submarines, Frank Cable’s primary clients, but the ship can also provide repair and logistic services to other Navy ships like cruisers and destroyers. The submarine tenders provide maintenance, temporary berthing services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the Pacific Ocean as well as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
With a crew of more than 600, Frank Cable is 649 feet long and weighs approximately 23,493 tons.
According to officials at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the ships, submarines, aircraft and Navy personnel forward-deployed to Guam are part of the world’s largest fleet command and serve in a region critical to U.S. national security. The U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean. All told, there are more than 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serving in the Pacific.
The integrated crew of sailors and civilian mariners builds a strong fellowship while working alongside each other. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.
“This duty is a rare opportunity to work with the silent service, the U.S. Navy submarines," Balino said. "I’m able to learn a whole other side of the Navy other than the surface aspect. I am grateful to have met and worked beside sailors that have become more of a family to me.”
Serving in the Navy means Balino 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% 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, Balino is most proud of being meritoriously advanced.
“I am very proud that I was selected to meritoriously advance to petty officer third class," said Balino. "It was competitive and a great deal of hard work. I also was chosen as the Blue Jacket of the Year. Obtaining this took a lot of military knowledge and military bearing.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Balino and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means to be able to sacrifice, but being proud of that sacrifice," added Balino. "It’s being ready to go anytime and anywhere to where they need you. Having the opportunity to serve my country is a privilege in its own.”