By Lt. Jake Joy
SASEBO, Japan – Petty Officer 3rd Class Taekwon Chappell, a native of Matthews, said he initially joined the Navy so he could help take care of his mom.
“It worked out,” he said. “I have a wife and two beautiful kids, and I’m taking care of them.”
Now, six years after joining and half a world away, Chappell serves aboard one of the Navy’s most dependable amphibious ships at Fleet Activities Sasebo, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“This is my third amphibious ship,” he said. “This one is more laid back, but it’s hard work. I’ve been onboard a month, the ship just came out of dry dock for 27 months. We’re in the last stages of inspection. We’re 100% combat ready.”
Chappell is an electrician’s mate aboard the forward-deployed Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown in Sasebo, Japan. He works with all electrical equipment, generators and water pump labs.
Chappell credits some of his success in the Navy to lessons learned in Matthews.
“I was taught to not discriminate and don’t judge,” he said. “A fireman can teach you more than a seaman can sometimes.”
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. Its area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries with between 50 and 70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and 20,000 sailors.
“The people and the personnel here is different than stateside,” Chappell said. “There’s a lot more camaraderie. This is the heart of the Navy. We’re away from home, so we’ve all got something in common.”
With more than half of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the U.S. has enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy’s presence in Sasebo is part of that long-standing commitment.
“The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It’s not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “It is, and will continue to be, our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who’ve made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference.”
There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career. Chappell has earned four warfare qualification pins.
“How many third class petty officers have four pins?” he asked. “Not many can tell you they’ve been in Afghanistan for eight months, either.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Chappell and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“There’s a safety net in the Navy,” he said. “I believe everyone should do a couple years, to get some structure and order. I was a rambunctious one and the Navy straightened me out.”
Lt. Jake Joy is part of the Navy Office of Community Outreach.