By SEAMAN ARON MONTANO
Mass Communication Specialist
SOUTH CHINA SEA — Michigan, famous for its Great Lakes and known for its automotive industry, is also the home of seven active duty officers assigned to Commander U.S. 7th Fleet and embarked on USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). These officers maintain a connection to their home state as they sail throughout the Indo-Pacific.
“It’s great to be from Trenton, Michigan, and to know that all my family and friends from back home support me in my career,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Stacey S. Kandas, a 2006 graduate of Grand Valley State University and now a communications planner for 7th Fleet. “The level of support that I receive from them makes doing what I do that much better.”
Despite their distant travels, Michigan is still home for these Great Lakes State sailors and marine. For some, their origin even influenced their decision to join the armed forces.
“Cool Midwestern values, which include a dose of healthy patriotism balanced with a sincere curiosity about the world,” said Navy Lt. John Foley from Dearborn, a 2006 graduate of Albion College. “Interestingly, I’ve noticed a higher-than-expected incidence of Midwesterners in the Navy, specifically. Perhaps we from the heart of America yearn for sea.”
Though they’re far away, there are still moments that tie them back to Michigan. Kandas said when she meets another Michigan native in the service, it makes her feel at home away from home. From talking about the state’s food and sports teams, to showing each other where they’re from on their hands, a tool developed because the state closely looks like a hand print, these moments always put a smile on her face.
“It’s a comfort to know I have somewhere to go back to,” said Lt. Cmdr. Adam Kushner from Brighton, a 2003 graduate of Western Michigan University. “My daughters are always on the move with me now, but I hope to be able to share the same feeling of belonging with them some day. Community is important.”
U.S. 7th Fleet provides security alongside allies and partners throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet operates roughly 50 to 70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 sailors.