By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt, Destroyer Squadron 26 Public Affairs
USS ANZIO, At Sea (NNS) -- After she finished law school eight years ago, Lt. Nancy Pham sought and earned her commission in the Navy Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps.
The Navy provided Pham with an opportunity to put her legal skills to use in service to her country and gave her a way to gain valuable trial experience that wouldn't have been as accessible to a junior lawyer in the civilian world. In addition to enabling her to practice military law, Pham has learned that the Navy will sometimes provide her with opportunities to step outside of her comfort zone.
Swinging "like an orangutan" off of the fantail of a U.S. Navy warship recently, Pham was reminded that JAG work isn't all collecting depositions and processing evidence. While that isn't exactly what Pham had in mind when she first commissioned as a JAG officer, this isn't Pham's first time at sea.
Embarked aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) for the ship's transit to Scotland to participate in exercise Joint Warrior, Pham is getting her first taste of serving as part of the Navy's "small boy" fleet.
"I've found that I feel much more comfortable walking around and exploring on a smaller ship," Pham said. "Places like the bridge and the flight deck are much more accessible, and I've been able to experience more aspects of the daily life of a shipboard Sailor."
While aboard Anzio, her job is to train Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 staff and Anzio crew members on the rules of engagement for Joint Warrior. In between training and preparing for the exercise, however, she has taken advantage of opportunities to further her own "Sailorization."
Pham proudly rattles off a list of her newest experiences like a scout showing off her merit badges: she's donned flight-deck gear to perform a pre-flight foreign object debris walkdown, watched tactical ship maneuvers from the bridge, and discovered some previously unknown acrobatic talents while readying herself for a ride in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB).
"I was climbing up the rope ladder coming off the RHIB, swinging there like an orangutan," she said. "It was fun."
Her first RHIB ride, she said was also particularly exciting because they were executing a fast inland attack craft training exercise. The RHIB crew's job was to simulate a swarming attack on the ship by smaller speed boats.
"It was a lot of fun; we got to go really fast, and we were bouncing all over the place," Pham said. "The whole time I was thinking, 'please don't be the JAG who goes overboard.'"
Capt. Brian Fort, the DESRON 26 commodore, said having Pham aboard as part of the DESRON staff has been a valuable experience for all concerned.
"She's been collecting some great sea stories, and my staff has been receiving some outstanding training," Fort said. "She is a top-notch legal officer, and I couldn't ask for a better person to augment my staff prior to the exercise."
"Every JAG should take any opportunity they can to go to sea," Pham said. "Being at sea reminds JAGs of the mission of the Navy and gives context to a lot of what we do, such as freedom of navigation operations. It also gives us perspective on what Sailors do on a daily basis. Seeing the unique challenges of Sailors' lives firsthand-the constant demands and the family separation-is invaluable when advising Sailors and addressing their legal needs."
Twice a year, nations converge on Faslane to commence Joint Warrior, a United Kingdom-led training exercise designed to provide NATO and allied forces with a unique multi-warfare environment in which to prepare for global operations.
With more than 50 ships representing the 15 countries participating, the latest Joint Warrior exercise, scheduled to begin April 9, will be the largest Joint Warrior to date.
The U.S. Navy contingent will be led by DESRON 26. The guided-missile cruisers USS Anzio (CG 68) and USS Vicksburg (CG 69); the guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75); the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE 13); and elements from Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 will also participate.
In addition to U.S. and U.K. forces, Joint Warrior will include air, sea and ground assets from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.