A native of Richmond Hill is providing a critical maintenance capability to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force in the Pacific as part of a hybrid crew of sailors and civilian mariners working aboard the expeditionary submarine tender, USS Frank Cable, in Santa Rita, Guam.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Diane Stewart is a hospital corpsman aboard the Guam-based submarine tender, one of only two such ships in the U.S. Navy. The Frank Cable and its crew provides maintenance and resupply capabilities both in port and at sea.
A Navy hospital corpsman is responsible providing medical care for Navy personnel, their families, retirees, and civilian government employees.
“I like teaching sailors how to take care of themselves and providing patient education," Stewart said.
Stewart credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Richmond Hill.
“Always have a plan, education, and have good grades,” said Stewart, a 2001 graduate of Richmond Hill High School. “College was pushed at home and many of my friends went to military and college. Education was instilled in me.”
Guam is also home to four Los Angeles-class attack submarines, Frank Cable’s primary clients, but the ship can also provide repair and logistic services to other Navy ships like cruisers and destroyers. The submarine tenders provide maintenance, temporary berthing services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the Pacific Ocean as well as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
With a crew of more than 600, Frank Cable is 649 feet long and weighs approximately 23,493 tons.
According to officials at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the ships, submarines, aircraft and Navy personnel forward-deployed to Guam are part of the world’s largest fleet command and serve in a region critical to U.S. national security. The U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean. All told, there are more than 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serving in the Pacific.
The integrated crew of sailors and civilian mariners builds a strong fellowship while working alongside each other. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.
“There are actually patients that need me and my profession,” said Stewart. “The dental hygienist to patient ratio is great but we are doing what we can to help maintain dental readiness. It is a good feeling to treat the sub guys and patients that actually want you here.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Stewart is most proud of the hygiene degree earned from Pensacola State College in 2018.
“I will have a job and the work experience while in the military,” Steward said. “I am most proud of my degree because a lot of people in my family do not have college degrees, it is an accomplishment for me.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Stewart and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means helping other service members with mentorship and gives me a good feeling that I am doing something to help the mission,” Stewart said. “My patients are comfortable with me and that speaks volumes because we are building a reputation.”