Huntington Beach native serves aboard versatile U.S. warship half a world away

Seaman Travis Zenk. Photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward.

Seaman Travis Zenk, a native of Huntington Beach, California, joined the Navy to better his life.

Now, one year later and half a world away, Zenk serves aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.

Zenk, a 2016 graduate of Huntington Beach High School, works in the deck department aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of three cruisers forward-deployed to the region.

“I do maintenance on the mooring lines, stanchions, and I help preserve the ship,” said Zenk. “I also drive the ship as a helmsman.”

Zenk credits success in the Navy to lessons learned in Huntington Beach.

“My grandpa was in the Marines and my other grandpa served in the Navy for 20 years, so there’s that proud tradition of serving in the military,” said Zenk.

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 the first to respond if there is a threat overseas,” said Zenk.

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.”

A Navy cruiser is a multi-mission ship that can operate independently or as part of a larger group of ships at sea. The ship is equipped with a vertical launching system, tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns, and a phalanx close-in weapons system.

Approximately 300 men and women serve aboard the ship. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. They do everything from maintaining gas turbine engines and operating the highly sophisticated Aegis weapons system to driving the ship and operating small boats.

Serving in the Navy means Zenk is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“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.”

There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Zenk is most proud of what he does for a job while preserving the ship.

“I worked on the anchor by stripping it and painting it,” said Zenk. “I feel like I have the best-looking anchor in the fleet.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Zenk and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy makes me feel like I’m helping and putting in the effort to help protect my country,” said Zenk.

This article was written by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Robert Zahn, Navy Office of Community Outreach.