By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach
SAN DIEGO – A native of Burlington Junction, Missouri, is serving aboard one of the nation’s newest, most versatile warships, the future USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5).
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Swinford is a 2010 West Nodaway R-1 graduate. According to Swinford, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Burlington Junction.
“Growing up in a very small town taught me that anything is possible,” Swinford said. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
Miguel Keith is an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship that will be commissioned by the U.S. Navy on May 8 in San Diego. Ship commissioning is a naval tradition that places a ship in active service.
The ship is named in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith and is the first ship to bear the name. Miguel Keith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in May 1970.
ESB-5 is the third Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) variant of the Expeditionary Transfer Dock platform (ESD). Expeditionary Mobile Base was previously known as Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) in the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) program. ESBs are highly flexible platforms that provide logistics movement from sea to shore supporting a broad range of military operations. The ESB variant is designed around four core capabilities: aviation, berthing, equipment staging area, and command and control.
Mrs. Eliadora Delores Keith, Miguel Keith’s mother, will serve as the ship’s sponsor. As part of a time-honored Navy tradition during the ceremony, Mrs. Keith, will give the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life.”
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Troy A. Fendrick, reported the ship as ready and the crew is excited to begin their mission.
“Preparing a warship to enter the surface fleet is a privilege and the Miguel Keith crew has done an exceptional job during this challenging time,” said Fendrick. “I am proud of our Sailors’ and Civil Service Mariners steadfast dedication to ship and each other. I am honored to serve as their commanding officer as we bring the ship to life.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Miguel Keith. Roughly 100 military officers and crew, plus 45 Military Sealift Command personnel make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the ship running smoothly. Each crew member performs a number of tasks outside of their traditional job or rating.
Swinford is an aviation boatswain’s mate (handling) responsible for taxiing and directing aircraft both on the flight deck and hanger bay, as well as being an aircraft firefighter.
“I love the thrill and rush of moving and launching multimillion dollar aircraft,” Swinford 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 United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.
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,” said Gilday. “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.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction within their command, community and career, Swinford is most proud of being able to step into another role while serving on the Navy’s hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy.
“While underway visiting countries in dire need of our help, I was given the opportunity to serve as a medical assistant,” Swinford said. “It was just such a great feeling and an awesome experience.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Swinford, who’s uncle retired as a major in the Army. He is honored to carry on the family tradition.
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Swinford, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.
“It is an honor to serve in the world’s greatest Navy and to serve my country,” Swinford said. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out.”
Due to public health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioning will be a private event, rather than the traditional public commissioning ceremony.
The event will be livestreamed to allow viewing by the general public at https://allhands.navy.mil/Media/Live-Stream/.