Gateway grad seeing the world: Kissimmee native serves on Navy warship half a world away

Joshua Centeno, a 2016 graduate of Gateway High School, is a boatswain’s mate aboard the USS McCambell.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Centeno, a native of Kissimmee, wanted to go see the world, explore and just better himself. So he joined the U.S. Navy.

Now, two years later and half a world away at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Centeno serves aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.

“It’s a very unique experience,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of things you never imagined. When you’re underway and you see other ships following you, it’s a thrill. There’s a lot of excitement. It’s never really the same. You’re always on your feet, always running around. Time goes really fast.”

Centeno, a 2016 graduate of Gateway High School, is a boatswain’s mate aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of several in its class forward-deployed to the region.

“I’m responsible for the overall corrosion control for the ship,” he said. “Basically, I keep it looking nice. I’m also responsible for the lifesaving equipment and help drive the ship when we’re underway.”

Centeno credits some of his success in the Navy to lessons learned in Kissimmee.

“My father taught me at a young age to never let somebody down if you give them your word,” said Centeno. “If you tell someone you’re going to do something, make sure you do it well.”

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.

“In Japan, the culture is one of a kind,” Centeno said. “You’ll never experience another like this. An hour away is one of the biggest cities in the world. You can go anywhere by train. I never experienced anything like this in the U.S. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

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.”

Destroyers are warships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. They are 510 feet long and armed with tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-3 and newer variants of the SM missile family, advanced gun systems and close-in gun systems. Destroyers are deployed globally and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, or amphibious readiness groups.

Their presence helps the Navy control the sea. Sea control is the precondition for everything else the Navy does. It cannot project power, secure the commons, deter aggression, or assure allies without the ability to control the seas when and where desired.

McCampbell has anti-aircraft capability armed with long range missiles intended for air defense to counter the threat to friendly forces posed by manned aircraft, anti-ship, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles.

Serving in the Navy means Centeno 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. Centeno recently was named Bluejacket of the Quarter for the ship.

“I was named the best sailor at the rank of seaman or below for the whole ship,” Centeno said. “I was thrilled to be recognized for my hard work.”

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

“You inherit a lot of good traits from the Navy,” Centeno said. “You learn good things that will help you later down the road. You’re ready to do whatever the job needs to get it done. You learn a lot of skills. Also, who else can say they’ve visited 25 countries in a year?”