Rochester native serving aboard Navy combat ship

COURTESY OF NAVY OFFICE OF COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Stokes, a 2009 graduate of Gates Chili High School, serves the U.S. Navy aboard one of the country’s most versatile combat ships. 

Stokes joined the Navy 11 years ago. Now, he serves as a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Indianapolis based in Mayport, Florida. He said he finds the values in Rochester similar to those needed to succeed in the military. 

“Growing up in the Great Lakes region, flexibility was a big one with the weather always changing,” he said. “Being flexible is a big part of the Navy with changing schedules. You always have to be on your toes.” 

Petty Office 2nd Class Michael Stokes.

Designed to defeat threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft, the LCS sustainment strategy was developed to take into account the design and manning of LCS and its associated mission modules. 

“Serving as the commanding officer of this ship is a great honor,” Cmdr. Joseph Mitzen said. "We're all part of the USS Indianapolis legacy and being part of this crew is incredible. Meeting these 70 Americans, learning their story, knowing how they are continuing a proud legacy is inspiring." 

According to Navy officials, the path to becoming an LCS sailor is a long one. Following an extensive training pipeline, sailors must qualify using simulators that are nearly identical to the ship. This training allows sailors to execute their roles and responsibilities immediately once they report aboard. 

Serving in the Navy means Stokes 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. 

“The Navy is vital in protecting our waterways and national assets abroad,” Stokes said. 

With more than 90% of all trade traveling by sea, and 95% of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the U.S. is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy. 

Freedom-variant LCS have deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet, off the coasts of Central and South America, to support counter-narcotics operations and conduct exercises and exchanges with partner nations. The LCS’s shallow draft provides opportunities for port access, making the ship an ideal vessel for these types of engagements. 

According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, four priorities will focus efforts on sailors, readiness, capabilities and capacity. 

“For 245 years, in both calm and rough waters, our Navy has stood the watch to protect the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas and defend our way of life,” he said. “The decisions and investments we make this decade will set the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century. We can accept nothing less than success.” 

There are many accomplishments that come with military service, and Stokes is most proud of receiving a Navy and Marine Corps medal for pulling a man out of a car wreck in Norfolk, Virginia. 

“In the Navy, we take an oath to defend our country, but doing the small things can make a difference,” he said. “I plan to retire from the Navy. It is a sense of pride when you can take a group of people with common interests to achieve a greater outcome.”