Top Three Leaders Aboard U.S. Warship From Same State
by Commander, Naval Forces Japan
May 22, 2021
It is extremely unusual for the top three leaders aboard a U.S. warship to come from the same state.
Aboard USS Mustin (DDG 89) , the commanding officer, executive officer, and command master chief all hail from New York.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) breaks away from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) after conducting a fueling-at-sea. Ronald Reagan and Mustin are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Codie L. Soule)
And for all three, Fleet Week New York has a special meaning.
Cmdr. Robert Briggs, commanding officer, grew up on the water and was actively involved in sailing and kayaking. It wasn't until seeing a fleet week, though, that he first considered a career in the Navy.
"It was my mother's idea to see Fleet Week New York when I was a high school freshman," said Briggs. "Seeing [the aircraft carrier] USS John F. Kennedy, the size of the ship, and the jets and helos onboard -- it was an amazing experience. After that, I went to Fleet Week New York every year until I graduated."
Executive officer Cmdr. Rick Slye, from Watertown, comes from a long-standing sea service tradition. Both grandfathers were Navy Sailors, his father served in the Coast Guard, his uncle flew the P-3 Orion, and a younger brother also serves on active duty. His first experience with Fleet Week New York was in 2002, in the months following 9/11. He visited the city as part of a United States Naval Academy summer training exercise, and recalled the hospitality and warmth with which the city welcomed Sailors.
"Being a young midshipman visiting fleet week the first year following 9/11 was an experience like no other," said Slye. "The clear sense of unity, resilience, and national pride shown by the great people of New York evoked a powerful feeling I will never forget, and is a primary reason I choose to continue to serve today."
Command Master Chief Van Troi Sibilia-Martinez's family came to Brooklyn via the Dominican Republic. The eldest of five children, he joined the Navy at eighteen as a hospital corpsman. In addition to participation in two New York fleet weeks, his career has included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and two tours and a deployment to Japan.
Following the devastation of Japan's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Sibilia-Martinez's medical training skills were called upon and he deployed to Yokota Air Base to provide radiological and chemical training to Japanese responders.
"It is our job to support each other when things are tough," said Sibilia-Martinez. "We look out for each other."
"We've got a great relationship with our Japanese brethren," said Slye. "They're incredibly gracious and professional, and it's an honor every time we sail together."
For Briggs, Mustin's participation in the fleet weeks allows his crew to showcase the best of New York and Japan.
"The strength of our alliance is not in the weapon systems, but in our relationships," said Briggs. "It's in the friendships we're able to forge working alongside and learning from each other."
The USS Mustin is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.
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