NEWS | May 4, 2021

A unique mission at Sea

By Sheila deVera

Straight out of high school, a Mystic, Connecticut native joined the Air Force to explore new places, cultures, people, and ideas.

Once assigned to the 3rd Operations Support Squadron as an intelligence analyst, Senior Airman Alexander Garrett received a once-in-a-lifetime deployment notification to support the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). He was the only U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst on board.

When he initially received the notification, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

Garrett said, the waters they were in were notorious for rough weather; he remembered the ocean swelling to 15 feet and feeling the vessel rocking back and forth. But rough seas did not stop this Airman from doing his job.

“I was on the USS Blue Ridge for seven months as part of the intelligence deployment” Garrett said. “I was the collection manager’s assistant, who would help identify and locate vessels of interest or vessels conducting illicit ship-to-ship activity in the area.”

The deployment is to support the United Nations Security Council Resolution and take part in the U.S. 7th Fleet Enforcement Coordination Cell, joint intelligence support element. The Blue Ridge is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Pacific region.

“I was working with every branch except the U.S. Coast Guard, which was an incredible experience - seeing how all the branches worked and how vastly different they are from the Air Force,” the intelligence analyst said. “My daily tasks consisted of giving briefings to senior leadership and figuring out which assets - enforcement coordination cell boats or aircraft - should go to collect information on illicit activity.

Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony Calizo, 3 OSS Intelligence flight chief, said Garrett was chosen for the assignment due to his well-established analytical abilities.

“Garrett was the first intel Airmen from the 3rd Wing to support the USS Blue Ridge,” said Calizo, noting Garrett’s adaptability and ability to think on his feet. “This is a completely different mission set than the 3rd Wing mission, and he had to change his focus from air support to sea support.”

Despite the difficulty of being on a ship for long periods, especially for Garrett, who is accustomed to land, the 22-year-old Airman met the task with a smile on his face and represented the Air Force well, Calizo said. 

Reminiscing about his time with the Navy, Garrett said, it was vastly different from the Air Force.

“In the Navy, you’re entrusted with a lot more responsibility with less oversight, which is something I am going to take with me,” Garrett added. “It came with great responsibility and also great reward in terms of seeing how I influenced the mission. It is something that I think everyone should get exposed to at least once in their careers.”

The Blue Ridge has been forward-deployed and operating in Indo-Pacific waters for more than 40 years, continuing her primary mission of supporting the US Navy’s 7th Fleet commander while conducting sustained operations at Sea. The Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the U.S. Navy and is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.