YOKOSUKA, Japan – Seaman Azar Abdulkadir, a native of St. Paul, joined the U.S. Navy to create a better opportunity to get herself to law school.
Now, a year later and half a world away, Abdulkadir serves aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“Life on a carrier can be overwhelming,” she said. “There's a lot of people. People come at you from every angle. You don’t get much of a chance to think. You get to meet lots of different people from different backgrounds.”
Abdulkadir, a 2015 graduate of William Nottingham High School, is a culinary specialist aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, the only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Navy.
“I'm a records keeper. We order the food for all the galleys and keep track of the funding,” said Abdulkadir, who noted that the ship has to figure out a way to feed its thousands of sailors on an annual $3 million food budget.
Abdulkadir credits her success in the Navy to lessons learned in her move to St. Paul.
“I'm from Kenya, so moving to America was a huge culture shock and I learned to be independent,” she said. “So, joining the Navy, I was already ready to deal with a major culture shift.”
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet's area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
“We are forward deployed, so we rarely have breaks. We're always going to deployment. I don't think many of the fleets are like that,” said Abdulkadir.
With more than 50 percent of the world's shipping tonnage and a third of the world's crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy's presence in Yokosuka is part of that long-standing commitment.
"The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It's not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace," said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. "It is, and will continue to be our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who've made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference."
Named in honor of former President Ronald Reagan, the carrier is longer than three football fields, measuring nearly 1,100 feet. The ship, a true floating city, weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 252 feet wide. Two nuclear reactors can push the ship through the water at more than 35 mph.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard the carrier. Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the ship's crew. Another 2,500 men and women form the air wing responsible for flying and maintaining more than 70 aircraft aboard the ship.
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Abdulkadir is most proud of advancing quickly to petty officer third class, an achievement that takes some sailors years.
“I was promoted out of ‘A school.’ It kind of gave me a jumpstart when getting to the fleet,” said Abdulkadir, referring to the primary skill course an enlisted sailor attends after completing recruit training.