YOKOSUKA, Japan | A 1989 Elston High School graduate and Michigan City native is serving aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), living and working at a Navy base in Japan.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Lawrence is a gas turbine systems technician aboard the ship operating out of Japan. Often called “the tip of the spear,” Yokosuka is located approximately 35 miles south of Tokyo and accommodates our nation’s furthest forward deployed naval forces.
An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, John S. McCain is 505 feet long at just over one and a half football fields. The ship is 66 feet wide, weighs more than 9,200 tons, and equipped with four gas turbine engines that can push the ship through the ocean at more than 30 knots.
The ship is named in honor of two famous John McCains. Annapolis alumni, John Sidney McCain, Sr., and his son, John Sydney, Jr., both served in World War II and became the first father-son pair ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral. They are the grandfather and father, respectively, of Senator John McCain, who himself served as a Navy pilot during Vietnam and achieved the rank of captain.
As a 43-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Lawrence said he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person. ”Our young sailors are really smart and receptive to training. Once you give them a goal, they pull together as a unit to complete it.”
He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the McCain’s 300-member crew, living thousands of miles from home, and protecting America on the world’s oceans. “Everyone on board is courteous and professional,” Lawrence said. “The crew and chief’s mess work well together as a team.”
Approximately 40 officers and 260 enlisted men make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the 2 billion dollar destroyer running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.
“Our Navy presence has to be where it matters and we have to be there when it matters. I am so proud and amazed by the knowledge McCain sailors display and the work they do every day,” said Cmdr. Chase Sargeant, the ship’s commanding officer. "Their professionalism, motivation and commitment to the Navy are genuinely inspiring.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile combat ships, Lawrence and other John S. McCain sailors understand they are part of a forward deployed team that is heavily relied upon to help protect and defend America across the world’s oceans.
“The Navy has been a great ride," Lawrence said. “It allowed me to meet my wife and go to places I probably would never been able to experience.”