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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2021

Profiles in Professionalism: Lt. Irene Blevins

By Leslie Hull-Ryde, Military Sealift Command Far East Public Affairs

Military Sealift Command Far East is known throughout the Indo-Pacific Region for its on-time, on-station logistics support to U.S. forces and international partners.

An army of civil service and contracted mariners crew MSC ships, ensuring critical supplies and equipment are delivered where and when needed.

But who helps these professional mariners report to their ships, when and where they are needed?

Lt. Irene Blevins, a Reserve Sailor assigned to Ship Support Unit Guam, that’s who.

The SSU Guam team is responsible for local coordination, engineering, contracting, administrative and information technology support to MSC ships. In the last year, that has included helping civil service and contracted mariners navigate the in-theater, in-country arrival requirements so they can get to their ships as quickly as possible.

"The normal duties and responsibilities of the staff assigned to SSU Guam have steadily increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cmdr. Gillian Medina, commanding officer of Ship Support Unit Guam.

“Having Irene on board built capacity and allowed us to take on this additional - and very important - tasking."

Those ashore tasked with ensuring all administrative requirements in Guam and follow-on countries are met must remain flexible and stay on top of ever-changing guidelines. If that meant only one country to track, no problem, but in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations, that includes a number of geographically dispersed and administratively diverse countries. Some mariners board their MSC ships in Guam; others transit through en route to their ships which may be underway or in a different location.

No problem for Blevins, though.

“I assisted with timely reliefs for [civilian mariners] by interpreting the latest COVID-19 guidance,” she said.

“I helped ensure MSC was aware of the changing requirements on Guam and how to best accomplish crew changes with as little impact to civil service mariners as possible.”

She says she’s enjoyed the challenge.

“I was very glad to be able to help support CIVMAR reliefs. I know firsthand how difficult transitions can be, especially in such a dynamic environment.”

During the last year, the SSU facilitated numerous civil service mariner crew reliefs on Guam.

“We are only able to do this because of Reserve Sailors like Irene who brought unique experience and enthusiasm to this unanticipated aspect of our mission," Medina said.

Blevins graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York, in 2016. Since then, she has served as a second and third mate aboard MSC’s special mission ships, including on board USNS Loyal (T-AGOS 22). As a strategic sealift officer, or SSO, she also served aboard SS Curtiss (T-AVB-4) and SS Cape Inscription (AKR-5076).

Strategic sealift officers are mariners who also serve as Reserve Sailors. According to MSC leaders, the SSO community merges the expertise of the merchant mariner with the warfighting capabilities of a naval officer.

“I’m glad I can support MSC missions in both capacities as I feel it is an important part of contributing to our national defense.

“Strategic sealift officers are critical to mission accomplishment because we have the licensed-mariner perspective. We have expertise in deck and engine operations. We also have experience of working on a ship with minimal manning,” Blevins said.

She volunteered for the SSU Guam assignment because she felt it would be an “interesting and educational” opportunity to gain a shore-side perspective of the organization she’s been part of for the last five years.

“I have been sailing in the Far East [Area of Responsibility] since graduation from Kings Point and have significant underway and operational experience,” the Las Cruces, New Mexico, native said.

“In this assignment, I learned more about how MSC is managed from a ‘big picture’ perspective, including ship repairs, scheduling and crew changes.

“I think I can apply a lot of things I learned during this assignment when I get back to the ship as well as during any future reserve assignments I have in support of MSC.”