2015-09-09 / Features

Hollis Man Keeping Seas Free In The Middle East

By LT. Philip Fortnam, Navy Office of Community Outreach

Petty Officer First Class Michael Richards, Navy quartermaster.Petty Officer First Class Michael Richards, Navy quartermaster.A 2000 Springfield Gardens High School graduate and Hollis native is helping the US Navy keep sea lanes safe and open in the Middle East, serving on the mine countermeasures ship USS Dextrous (MCM-13).   

Petty Officer First Class Michael Richards is a Navy quartermaster and lives and works at a Navy base in Manama, Bahrain, where USS Dextrous is based.  Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Arabian Gulf.  

A Navy quartermaster’s responsibility is to keep the ship safe by navigation and letting the skipper know about any hazards to navigation.  

“Being underway, waking up and getting the fresh ocean air and seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets is one of the best things about being in the Navy,” said Richards.

The Dextrous was commissioned in 1994 and is the second Navy ship to bear this name. It is one of the Navy’s 11 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships that are designed to remove mines from vital waterways and harbors.

“I like watching my shipmates doing their jobs, whether it’s mine-sweeping, mine-hunting or engineering evolutions,” said Richards.  

The Dextrous is 224 feet long, 39 feet wide and displaces 1,312 tons of water. It is powered by four diesel engines and can reach speeds of more than 16 mph.

With approximately eight officers and 76 enlisted personnel comprising the ship’s company, jobs are highly varied which keeps the ship mission-ready — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the propulsion system.  

As a member of the crew, Richards and other Dextrous sailors know they are part of a forward-deployed naval forces team that is heavily relied upon to help protect and defend America on the world’s oceans.  

“I love going to new places, learning about different cultures and trying different foods,” said Richards.  

In addition to the Dextrous, another Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship is forward deployed in Bahrain along with seven Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships.  

The world is increasingly complex and crewmembers aboard the Dextrous, as well as the other forward-deployed naval vessels in Bahrain, assist with assuring that international sea lines between the Middle East and Europe remain open, and help protect against possible maritime threats.   

As a sailor with numerous responsibilities, deployed half-way around the world away from friends and family back home, Richards said he is learning about himself as a leader, a sailor and a person.  

“I’ve learned responsibility, how to adapt to different situations and how to be a leader,” said Richards. 

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