Lt. j.g. Julianne Dahlman, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, was encouraged by her father, who served in the Navy as a submarine officer, to go see the world, serve her country, and “do something bigger.”
Now, two years later and half a world away, Dahlman serves aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“It’s busy,” Dahlman said. “We provide air and missile defense for the USS Ronald Reagan strike group. Operating next to the carrier makes you realize the importance of the mission. Hands down, my favorite role is serving as officer of the deck and driving the ship, knowing the captain has full faith in you – I love it.”
Dahlman, a 2013 graduate of Bishop England High School, is a surface warfare officer aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of three cruisers forward-deployed to the region.
“I’m an ordnance officer, in charge of the armory and close-in weapons system,” she said. “I’m also taking care of sailors day in and day out and handle some collateral duties.”
Dahlman credits part of her success in the Navy to lessons learned in Charleston.
“Not losing my personality has helped me,” she said. “Southern hospitality is part of me and all those little acts, having those little connections to the sailors, speaks volumes. My mom always made a big deal about birthdays, so I make a big deal about birthdays on the ship.”
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
“As soon as you [sail], you’re in the midst of everything,” Dahlman said. “You’re always kind of on guard and ready to defend. And living in Japan is incredible. To interact with the community and see places is incredible – you wouldn’t get the same opportunity at home.”
With more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy’s presence in Yokosuka is part of that long-standing commitment.
“The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It’s not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “It is, and will continue to be our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who’ve made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference.”
A Navy cruiser is a multi-mission ship that can operate independently or as part of a larger group of ships at sea. The ship is equipped with a vertical launching system, tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns, and a phalanx close-in weapons system.
Approximately 300 men and women serve aboard the ship. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. They do everything from maintaining gas turbine engines and operating the highly sophisticated Aegis weapons system to driving the ship and operating small boats.
Serving in the Navy means Dahlman 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.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Dahlman is most proud of earning her officer of the deck qualification.
“I got it while we were in the East China Sea,” Dahlman said. “I essentially got the final signature of the captain saying ‘yes, I fully trust you.’ … and we were immediately surrounded by hundreds of contacts and I’m realizing I had responsibility for the fate of 350 sailors … I couldn’t get this kind of job satisfaction in any other career.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Dahlman and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“If you want to do something unique and have a different schedule every day and you’re ready to do something bigger than yourself, join the Navy,” Dahlman said. “As a surface warfare officer specifically, especially coming right out of college, you’re immediately put into leadership positions – there is no other career where you can get those experiences at that young of an age.”