By Chief (Select) Mass Communication Specialist Scott Wichmann
Townsend recalled his first assignment aboard the combat stores ship USS White Plains (AFS-4) during the runup to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. What he remembers most is not the anticipation of conflict or the nervous energy of a crew preparing to join in a historic fight, but how his leading petty officer simply took advantage of some downtime to train him on the basics of electronics.
“My LPO was Robert Washburn,” said Townsend. “I’ll never forget this guy. I didn't have any knowledge of electronics. He took the time, wrote out schematics and taught me the different formulas, [showed me] how to read for resistance, and find the answer. He’d throw a trick in there for me to figure out. But that’s what helped me on the exam. And I made 3rd class the first time up. The fact that we had one-on-one time, that was one of the most memorable moments early on in my career, and it got me to where I am today.”
Now as the Maintenance Material Control Officer (MMCO) at Fleet Readiness Center, Mid Atlantic, Townsend is one of 6,500 Sailors and Marines supporting the Navy’s eight Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs), with locations on the U.S. East and West coasts and in Japan. FRCs are responsible for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft, engines, components and support equipment.
“We have five different platforms that we work with here,” said Townsend. “We have the H-60, helicopters, H-53s, and we work with the V-22s. And we also work with the fire scout program. So we are pretty busy here. We actually have the largest FRC in the region. There are a lot of moving parts.”
A native of Martinsville, Virginia, Townsend enlisted in the Navy at 18 years old and spent nine years on active duty before transitioning to the Reserve, primarily to close the geographical gap between his young family in Florida and his duty station in Oceana, Virginia.
“I separated from active duty Dec. 8, 1998,” he said, “and Dec. 9, I was swearing right into the Reserve because I didn't want any breaks in service. I really enjoyed the military, but at the time, it was important to me to keep my family together.”
Now serving as a Full-Time Support officer, Townsend stressed how important it is for Navy leaders to stay approachable, humble, grounded and teachable.
“One of the main things I've learned in my career is just to be approachable,” he said. “As a leader, don't allow rank to change the way you are when you're with your sailors. Be approachable, stay humble and be an active listener, because we don't know all the answers.”
Recently promoted yet again, this time to lieutenant commander, the hard-charging Townsend said he’s currently closing in on yet another personal milestone.
“I have a re-enlistee next Friday, it'll be my first one at my new command,” he said. “This one will be my 100th re-enlistee. I've been keeping track ever since I was commissioned.”