Houston native serves aboard U.S. Navy warship half a world away


SASEBO, Japan – Petty Officer 3rd Class Brianna Murray, a Houston native, said she wanted to take advantage of the military’s traveling opportunities at a young age while benefitting from the financial security, stability and free health care national service offers.

“I also really wanted to give back and be part of something greater than myself,” she said.

Now, two and a half years later and a world away, Murray 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.

“One word: busy,” she said. “The one thing about an amphibious ship is it mixes all the missions into one. Aviation, deck, engineering, supply, they’re all crunched together. In the future, people who have experience here will carry a high work ethic.”

Murray, a 2016 graduate of Madison High School, is a personnel specialist aboard the forward-deployed Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland in Sasebo, Japan.

“I’m the ship’s serviceman workcenter supervisor,” Murray said. “I’m the deputy disbursing officer, and the training and damage control petty officer for the division.”

Murray credits some success in the Navy to lessons learned in Houston.

“Being on the ship, it’s okay to be tired, it’s okay to be stressed out, but at the end of the day, the work does have to get done,” Murray said. “I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who feels pressure. It’s good to work as a team. It’s best to be a great follower, and work your way up to being a good leader.”

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. 7th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.

“Japan is beautiful,” Murray said. “After being here two and a half years, I still get a culture shock. There’s always something new to do or see, and in the springtrime, it’s exactly what you see on postcards.”

With more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and 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.”

USS Ashland is 610 feet long. The ship can travel at speed in excess of 20 nautical miles per hour. Ashland is one of eight Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships currently in service. The ship’s primary purpose is to launch equipment and personnel for amphibious missions.

Approximately 22 officers and 390 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the ship running smoothly. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.

Serving in the Navy means Murray 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.”

There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Murray said she is most proud of becoming the youngest person in her family to be 100 percent independent.

“That means I have control of my life,” she said. “I’m in control of my decisions, the training wheels are off. As a young woman, I’m proud to say I’ve been capable of earning what I have, and faced challenge after challenge and come out safe, smarter and better than before.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Murray and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It’s not for people who have a selfish state of mind. You will have tiring days. You will want to quit. You will question yourself as to why you really want to do this. If you have the resolve to push through no matter what you have to work with, then the military is for you. But you have to be willing to take, and give orders.”

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