Palm Desert Native Serves Aboard Versatile Warship Half A World Away

By Lt. Jake Joy, Navy Office of Community Outreach – photo By Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward

OKOSUKA, Japan – Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Lang, a native of Palm Desert, California, said he knew he wanted to travel the world, get help paying for college and serve his country.

Now, four years later and half a world away at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Lang serves aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet. 

“It can be stressful at times, but it’s worth it,” Lang said. “You get to connect with people for longer. You get to really connect with your division and make some lifelong friends.” 

Lang, a 2012 graduate of La Quinta High School, is a sonar technician aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of several in its class forward-deployed to the region, where he said he’s responsible for maintence of sonar systems and other equipment like torpedo tubes – “all the gear that combat acoustics owns.” 

Lang credits success in the Navy to lessons learned in Palm Desert. 

“I was taught growing up that you don’t look for the job you want to do, do the job you have and do it well,” Lang said. “There’s definitely some challenges in the Navy, but you just have to come back the next day, get the job done and help the mission. It helps you see that you’re an important cog in the chain.” 

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. 

“The language barrier is pretty big, it’s difficult to learn the language,” Lang said. “There’s great opportunities to explore, went to Hong Kong, never thought that would happen in my life.” 

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 Yokosuka 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.”  

Destroyers are warships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. They are 510 feet long and armed with tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-3 and newer variants of the SM missile family, advanced gun systems and close-in gun systems. 

Destroyers are deployed globally and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, or amphibious readiness groups. Their presence helps the Navy control the sea. Sea control is the precondition for everything else the Navy does. It cannot project power, secure the commons, deter aggression, or assure allies without the ability to control the seas when and where desired. 

John S. McCain has anti-aircraft capability armed with long range missiles intended for air defense to counter the threat to friendly forces posed by manned aircraft, anti-ship, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles. 

Serving in the Navy means Lang 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. Lang is most proud of a period during a recent deployment where his sonar watch team was able to identify and track a Chinese nuclear sub and follow it. 

“It was a big morale booster for everyone in the division when things were feeling monotonous,” Lang said. But once the sub was spotted he said the team sprang to life. “We thought, this is our job, this is our chance to shine. I learned the most in that [period] than at any point in my career – there’s a lot of technical stuff you have to memorize while it’s happening, it was a blast.” 

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

“This opportunity, like any job, it’s what you make it,” he said. “If you put your heart and soul into it, you’ll do well. And you get a chance to serve your country.”

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