The massive gray warship slid in to the port city of Goa, India.
For months, the USS Frank Cable had been operating in the waters throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans. In an increasingly strategic sphere of the world, the ship was responsible for supporting submarines and other ships with the U.S. 7th Fleet.
Their work was critical for the U.S. Navy’s goals in the region. Yet for Greenwood native Katherine Curtis and the other 500 on-board the ship, stopping in Goa was a unique kind of mission — one of goodwill.
“Missions such as these build camaraderie between our nation and the host country,” Curtis said in an email from the ship. “Respecting their beliefs, views and going into their countries with an open mind shows that we do care about them and what they stand for. This is very important to not only our mission, but also most sailors as well.”
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Curtis, a seven-year veteran of the Navy, spent five days in India as part of the friendly visit. Sailors and civilian marines met with Indian children, playing games and teaching them about jobs aboard the USS Frank Cable. They volunteered at schools throughout Goa and participated in cultural activities throughout the city.
They also were able to relax and take some personal time off the ship. While a departure from their normal duties, visits such as this are still vital to the Navy’s overall objective, said Capt. Drew St. John, the Frank Cable’s commanding officer.
“This port visit is an excellent opportunity to interact with our counterparts in the Indiana Navy and enjoy the culture of one of the world’s oldest civilizations and largest democracy,” he said in a statement. “Through our varied interactions, we hopefully will create, with India, the defining partnership of the 21st century.”
For Curtis, the stop was yet another opportunity for her to see a foreign country. Throughout her naval career, she has traveled throughout the world. The 25-year-old has also been stationed at the Navy’s base in Yokosuka, Japan, and in Guam.
Though she has lived all over the world, Curtis said she still considers the Center Grove area her home. She attended Pleasant Grove Elementary School and Center Grove Middle School North, before her family moved to the Perry Meridian school district and then to Montana.
After graduating from high school, Curtis joined the Navy in 2009 with a desire to travel the world while serving her country.
“I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I never thought that I would fall in love with the service,” she said.
Curtis is assigned to the gunnery division on board the ship, managing all of guns not only for the USS Frank Cable but for the submarines it tends as well.
But most sailors on board take care of much more than just their job, Curtis said. Her collateral duties include serving as the work center supervisor, a leadership position charged with effective maintenance of her area of the ship.
She is a training officer, and is also the victim advocate for the ship’s sexual assault prevention response team.
“To make ends meet on the ship everyone needs to go above and beyond to ensure everyone is taken care of, that no one has more than they can handle,” she said.
The work is fulfilling and rewarding, Curtis said, but she admitted that being on the same ship, spending months at sea can be challenging, with the most difficult aspect being the isolation from friends and family.
Internet connection is limited. Between the gaps in online access and near-constant responsibilities maintaining the ship, sailors can go days or weeks without messages from home.
Being on the ocean, particularly when gales and storms kick up massive waves, can be no fun either.
“If you get sea sick, do not join the Navy,” she said. “We have quite a few sailors who get sick when the seas are bad. Now I am used to it though.”
So stopping in places such as Goa provides a welcome respite from routine. Curtis was able to visit the ruins of the Church of St. Augustine, established in 1602 and one of the few remaining churches in the city. She also stopped in serene mosques and Hindu temples along the tour.
One excursion was at an area spice plantation, a lush tropical area where the sailors toured the grounds, were served lunch and could observe how spices are prepared and packaged.
But while the activities were entertaining, the most important reason for the visit was the community service and connecting with the Indian people, Curtis said.
From singing and dancing with children at local schools to providing a workforce for needed service projects, the mission was a success in that regard, said Lt. Nathanael Gentilhomme, Frank Cable’s chaplain, in a statement.
“(Community relations projects) are important to sailors because it allows them to be immersed in a different culture with different priorities, history, traditions and ideals,” he said. “Further, it takes them away from the normal work of everyday life. Especially when Sailors get to work with children, it gives them an opportunity to practice being a positive mentor and role model for younger generations to follow.”
Hometown: Center Grove area
Education: Graduated high school in 2009; former student at Pleasant Grove Elementary and Center Grove Middle School North
Parent: William and Michelle Curtis
Occupation: Gunner’s mate 1st class on the USS Frank Cable