SANTA RITA, GUAM — A 1991 Abington Heights High School graduate and North Abington Township native is providing a critical maintenance capability to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force in the Pacific as part of a hybrid crew of sailors and civilian mariners working aboard the expeditionary submarine tender, USS Frank Cable.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Tom Brickler is an aerographer’s mate and serves as the 3M manager aboard the Guam-based submarine tender, one of only two such ships in the U.S. Navy. The Frank Cable and its crew provides maintenance and resupply capabilities both in port and at sea.
As the 3M manager, Brickler is overall responsible for ensuring the ship’s maintenance is accomplished.
“When I look at these ships, I see an old 40-year-old ship and it’s in need of repair,” said Brickler. “I see that as a challenge for myself as well as the 3M manager to getting it fixed to support the overall mission out here. We’re all shipmates committed to ensuring the mission gets done by supporting these submarines.”
Brickler credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned back at home.
“I’ve learned loyalty to family and friends from growing up, so that carries over to Navy,” he said.
Guam is also home to four Los Angeles-class attack submarines, Frank Cable’s primary clients, but the ship can also provide repair and logistic services to other Navy ships like cruisers and destroyers. The submarine tenders provide maintenance, temporary berthing services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the Pacific Ocean as well as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
With a crew of more than 600, Frank Cable is 649 feet long and weighs approximately 23,493 tons.
According to officials at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the ships, submarines, aircraft and Navy personnel forward-deployed to Guam are part of the world’s largest fleet command and serve in a region critical to U.S. national security. The U.S. Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean. All told, there are more than 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serving in the Pacific.
The integrated crew of sailors and civilian mariners builds a strong fellowship while working alongside each other. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.
“Submarines pull in and have all of these jobs to be accomplished so they can go back out and fight,” said Brickler. “If we can’t do that for them then they have to go to the shipyard. We are kind of like a pit crew in racing – these ships pull in and we get them out there as soon as we can. I enjoy it.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Brickler is most proud of attending the senior enlisted academy in 2017. He is also working on a masters degree to further his career.
“I believe in setting goals and achieving them. That’s what keeps me motivated,” he said.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Brickler and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes – one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“I’m proud to serve in the Navy because I’m proud to be a patriot,” said Brickler. “I also serve to protect friends and family back home.”
Robert Zahn is Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class, Navy Office of Community Outreach.