Matthew Strawser, a 2014 Centerburg High School graduate, is serving in the U.S. Navy and participating in the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise.
Strawser is a hull maintenance technician aboard the USS America, operating out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He is responsible for damage control aboard the ship, as well as welding repairs and maintaining the ship’s plumbing.
“I’m looking forward to being able to participate with all of the different countries involved in the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) and have the opportunity to get out and see how they work,” Strawser said. “We come together and do all of these exercises as one, and that’s incredible.”
According to Navy officials, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea-lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the biennial series that began in 1971.
Twenty-six nations, 45 surface ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel will participate in RIMPAC. This year’s exercise includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“I really like the ship platform, as well as having the opportunity to meet other people and learn about their roles on the ship,” Strawser said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to learn and build experience.”
Strawser said the challenging living conditions of the RIMPAC exercise build strong fellowship among his ship’s crew, with a busy schedule of specialized work, watches, and drills.
“I’ve learned that no matter what I put my mind to I can do it, learn it, and know it well — even with the stress that we have day in and day out,” Strawser said. “I didn’t expect myself to be as motivated as I’ve become.”
Additional information about Rim of the Pacific Exercise is available at < cpf.navy.mil/rimpac >
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093