SAN DIEGO — While most members of the U.S. Navy conduct deployments at sea as part of U.S. Navy warship crews, each year thousands of sailors are called upon to conduct non-traditional deployments, often in austere locations outside the maritime environment, in support of military missions around the globe.
A Roswell native and 1996 Roswell High School graduate is one of these sailors. Chief Petty Officer Jeff Palma is serving in the U.S. Navy with Coastal Riverine Group One, operating out of San Diego.
Palma is a gunner’s mate responsible for maintaining the weapons qualifications and ordnance for the command.
Palma credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Roswell.
“I was taught to treat everybody with the same respect that you expect to receive,” said Palma.
Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Group One operate in harbors, rivers, bays and other bodies of water near the shore. The men and women of Coastal Riverine Group One are responsible for training, coordinating and equipping Coastal Riverine Force squadrons in order to operate in high density, multi-threat environments.
The Coastal Riverine Force’s primary mission is to conduct maritime security operations by defending high-value assets, ports and harbors both inland and on coastal waterways against enemies and, when commanded, conduct offensive combat operations.
“I like the fact that we are on the frontlines,” said Palma. “We are the security for all of the assets that go in and out of ports. We make sure they can come and go with a sense of security.”
Being stationed in San Diego, the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, means Palma is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied in the support unit. More than 1,000 men and women make up the group, which prepares naval security units to deploy sailors to the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa and includes three different Coastal Riverine Squadrons, one active and two reserve.
Coastal Riverine Force sailors operate from different types of patrol craft including a 34-foot patrol boat and the Mk VI patrol boat, the newest craft in the Coastal Riverine Forces inventory.
Today’s riverine force is nestled inside Navy Expeditionary Combat Command but it evolved out of the sailors who served aboard PT boats in World War II and their brown-water brethren who fought in Vietnam. The riverine squadrons offer billets for sailors in 17 different ratings but the core skill sets are found with boatswain’s mates, engine-men, quartermasters and gunner’s mates. Most of their formal training occurs at a four-week course taught in Gulfport, Mississippi. That’s where they start to transform from shipboard sailors into expeditionary crews that can handle weapons and small unit tactics.
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Palma is most proud of earning Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
“What we do allows the people we love back home to live their lives in the safety of their homes,” said Palma.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Palma and other riverine sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation’s needs.
“Serving in the Navy means a lot to me because it provides my family with a stable lifestyle,” Palma added. “It makes me feel good to know that they are proud of what I do.”