By Leslie Hull-Ryde, Military Sealift Command Far East and Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs
Some of the most demanding positions aboard any ship in the U.S. Navy include executive officer, damage control officer, security officer, safety officer, training officer, anti-terrorism officer, and department head.
On board most Navy ships, someone is responsible for each of those jobs, and they often have strong backup, like a deputy or assistant, and a team of Sailors to help carry out all related tasks. That’s not the case on USNS Yukon (T-AO 202). On the fleet replenishment oiler, Navy Reserve Lieutenant Michael Cook does it all.
“As the USNS Yukon chief mate, I fill the role of executive officer for most ship-wide evolutions and am also the ship’s damage control officer, security officer, safety officer, and training officer,” said Cook. “I have a critical assignment in almost all operational evolutions the ship performs.”
Getting it all done — safely and effectively — requires adept multi-tasking skills.
“The many collateral duties I’m responsible for guarantee that there is always at least one program under my purview that needs extra attention,” said Cook, who was born and raised in Scituate, Mass. “There’s no shortage of work to do, and time spent focused in one area may preclude making progress for a bit elsewhere, but it all gets done, thanks in large part to the team on Yukon.”
The chief mate is essential to Yukon’s readiness. Cook ensures the ship is trained and equipped to execute its mission. As the training officer, he drafts ship-wide training schedules and monitors personnel training qualifications to maintain Yukon’s dual compliance with U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy training standards — requirements that ensure the crew is adequately trained to safely accomplish its mission.
Cook is used to staying busy, juggling many important tasks and seeing them through to completion.
He started working for Military Sealift Command immediately after graduating from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Mass., with a Bachelor of Science in marine transportation six years ago. Since then, Cook has served as the chief mate aboard MSC’s submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and as the cargo officer aboard the ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14).
Through one of the leadership development opportunities offered by MSC, Cook spent 10 months enrolled in the U.S. Naval War College’s College of Naval Command and Staff in Newport, RI. He graduated from the program with a Master of Arts in defense and strategic studies. The course workload sharpened his ability to effectively lead from the front, as well as manage and monitor Yukon’s critical programs.
“I oversee the inventory and inspection of lifesaving, damage control, cargo, force protection, and deck gear, and restock materiel shortfalls when they arise so that Yukon has the authorized allowance of equipment onboard,” said Cook. “During cargo and ship maneuvering events, and drills, I assume a leadership station either on the navigation bridge or in the [helicopter] control tower, or I supervise from the deck plates.”
In addition to meeting all of his Yukon responsibilities, Cook also meets his U.S. Navy Reserve commitments. His most recent tour on active duty was as the ordnance officer for Task Force 53 in Bahrain. He often transfers his MSC experience to his active duty assignments and vice versa.
Cook said the process of planning, preparation and execution is something he takes great pride in.
“Watching a well-developed whole-of-ship plan to accomplish the ship’s mission come to fruition is extremely satisfying,” said Cook. “Whether the operation be an underway replenishment, a complex navigational transit, or a major maintenance evolution, when Yukon pools its resources and talent together toward a common goal and succeeds, it justifies the countless hours of hard work that went into planning and training for that event.” #ReadyOnDayOne