Capt. John Rinko, commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa sectors commands hundreds of merchant mariners deployed across the European and African area of operations. These mariners work aboard U.S. Navy noncombatant ships that conduct specialized missions and move military cargo and fuel in support of U.S. forces. Here are questions and answers from an interview NavyLive had with Capt. Rinko:
Q: What did you know about Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Merchant Marine before taking command in August 2013?
A:Before becoming commodore of Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa, my only real experience with mariners was watching them work. Since becoming commodore, I have come to learn and understand their dedication to their work and ship are as impressive. They truly are professionals, and they know their job. They are willing to make significant sacrifices to make sure they meet their tasking.
Q: What’s your favorite memory from working with mariners the past two years?
A: I got underway aboard Military Sealift Command joint, high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa for Africa Partnership Station operations. The thing that impressed me most about the mariners was being at sea with them and watching them go about their business. They’re all business. I was so impressed with their knowledge of their equipment, systems, procedures and people.
I will remember meeting a civilian engine utilityman who was a former U.S. Navy senior chief turned mariner. He was so truly excited to be where he was and working the job that he was. He loved the mechanics of making oilers work. He appreciated the opportunity to have a job doing what he loved. All of the mariners I’ve met have shared this passion for their jobs, and they all bring tremendous technical ability to the table.
Q: What can you tell us about the civilian masters and chief engineers aboard MSC’s noncombatant ships?
A: Their deck-plate leadership is outstanding. Two civilian leaders who I will always remember are Spearhead’s civilian captain and the 6th Fleet command ship USS Mount Whitney’s (LCC 20) chief engineer. Both of these leaders knew everything about every person who works for them. They knew their people as well as any leader I’ve met in the Navy. Each of them had mariners who had followed them and sought out opportunities to continue to work with them, even as they changed ships. They took time to focus on people to make sure that their personal and professional needs were met. I have enjoyed implicit trust in the civilian masters I’ve worked with. All they want is independence, and it’s easy to give it to them. They are highly-skilled, and there is a reason they are at the top of such a tremendous organization. All I need to give them is their mission, and they will execute it flawlessly.