Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Sandoval, a Kingsville native, said he felt it was his duty to serve his country.
Now, 22 years later and half a world away at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Sandoval serves aboard an avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, USS Gladiator, tasked to search and dispose of enemy mines in the world’s most dynamic maritime region as the leading-edge of the Navy.
“The most challenging thing we deal with is that we have a limited number of sailors who are cross trained to do multiple jobs,” said Sandoval. “It is exciting to see the sailors succeed and rise to the challenge.”
Sandoval, a 1996 graduate of H.M. King High School, is a mineman aboard the Manama, Bahrain-based ship, one of four MCMs forward-deployed to the Arabian Gulf in the Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet operating under Task Force 52.
“I am responsible for keeping key, strategic shipping lanes clear so goods and oil can be shipped,” said Sandoval.
Task Force 52 plans and executes mine warfare operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet’s operational objectives.
Sandoval credits success in the MCM force, and in the Navy, to many of the lessons learned in Kingsville.
“I learned the power of networking and family,” said Sandoval. “In the Navy, while deployed, I can reach out to a fellow chief petty officer and they will always help my family stateside. This allows me to focus on my work.”
USS Gladiator is 224 feet long, 39 feet wide and weighs over 1,300 tons. Four diesel engines, designed to have very low magnetic and acoustic signatures, help push the ship through the water at 16 miles per hour.
As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the U.S. and partner nations are committed to taking all action necessary to reduce the risk of mines to support the continuous free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation throughout the region. MCMs are outfitted with the means to detect and disable them, ensuring sea lanes remain open for military, commercial and civilian vessels. These ships use a variety of novel and conventional sweeping measures, including sonar and video systems, cable cutters and remote control mine-detonating devices.
“We keep the shipping lanes open, while helping out the economy around the world,” said Sandoval.
The Navy’s mine countermeasures in the U.S. 5th Fleet are divided between three separate legs, consisting of airborne, surface and underwater methods. These consist of the MCMs such as USS Gladiator, MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, and unmanned underwater vehicles, as well as expeditionary explosive ordnance disposal teams. All three legs work together to hunt and neutralize mines.
The Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of ocean, and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 20 countries, includes three critical choke points; the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
“I’m incredibly proud to serve with each of our Sailors, Coastguardsmen and Marines forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, deputy commander for NAVCENT/ U.S. 5th Fleet. “They represent the very best of our country and serve as volunteers in a complex and dynamic region that’s vital to our security. I am honored to work alongside these warriors.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Sandoval is most proud when mentoring junior sailors.
“Watching these sailors grow as leaders and subject matter experts lets me know I am doing my job,” said Sandoval.