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Hunt High grad supports critical Navy mission

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NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN — Petty Officer 1st Class Yanet Chavez Espinoza, a Bailey native, wanted to see the world by joining the Navy.

Now, 14 years later and half a world away at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Chavez Espinoza serves at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ U.S. 5th fleet.

“I am able to work with a diverse group of people and learn their culture,” said Chavez Espinoza.

Chavez Espinoza, a 2004 graduate of James B. Hunt High School, is a religious program specialist at U.S. 5th Fleet, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain.

“Depending upon the command, I manage community relations using the local organizations to build the relationship between the Navy and local population,” said Chavez Espinoza.

Chavez Espinoza credits success at U.S. 5th Fleet, and in the Navy, to many of the lessons learned growing up.

“I came from an immigrant family and we had to adapt to a new culture and environment and with my family not speaking English, we had to learn to overcome,” said Chavez Espinoza.

U.S. 5th Fleet directs naval operations to ensure maritime security and stability in the Central Region, which connects the Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean through the western Indian Ocean. The fleet works with partner nations to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in international waterways.

“My job is to help sailors when they are going through difficult situations and need someone to speak to, and I can help them by listening and providing comforting words,” said Chavez Espinoza.

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, consisting 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.

“Working with a unique group of people out here and being able to help the area of operations is very special,” said Chavez Espinoza.

Serving in the Navy means Chavez Espinoza 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 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.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Chavez Espinoza is most proud of becoming a first class petty officer.

“It is hard to achieve and now I am able to help my shipmates and give them advice,” said Chavez Espinoza. Many sailors look up to me and I can set a good example for them.”

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

“I am the only person in my family to join the military and I am proud to serve with the sailors I serve with,” said Chavez Espinoza.

Erica R. Gardner is a chief mass communication specialist in the Navy. The Navy Office of Community Outreach made this story available to The Wilson Times.

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