SUBIC BAY, Zambales: A Filipino is the second highest officer in the engineering department of the USS John McCain, one of two American warships participating in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) exercise in Subic Bay.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Arnold Libongco, 46, is from San Mateo, Rizal, and has been with the United States Navy for 20 years.
He is assistant head of the engineering department which supervises all the ship’s engines, including the three that supply electricity to the whole ship and the combat system that manages the missiles.
Libongco is one of 22 Filipinos in the John McCain’s crew of 329 officers and men.
“Once a week, the ship prepares Filipino cuisine like lumpia, pansit and adobo that even many American sailors like to eat,” he said.
He visited his family in San Mateo only last month so he volunteered to help in the Carat exercise.
“This is the first time I saw Philippine Navy ships. I saw that the Filipino sailors were professional and hardworking. I hope to meet more of them,” Libongco said.
He said every time a US Navy ship makes a port call in the Philippines, its Filipino sailors were very eager to go home to their families. “They couldn’t sleep the night before. They were very excited to visit their villages in the Philippines,” Libongco said.
The 25-year-old John McCain is berthed at Subic’s Alava wharf. The vessel is 154 meters long, 20.4 meters high and with a draft of 9.3 meters. It is based in Yokosuka, Japan.
The ship has a top speed of 30 knots.
Lt JG Blaine Shipley, the destroyer’s anti-submarine warfare officer, said the ship is armed with anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine missiles, torpedoes and machine guns.
Shipley and Libongco showed reporters portions of the ship, from the pilot house or bridge to the missile deck.
Shipley said the charts in the bridge are all electronically-operated.
The ship has not seen combat action “but has undertaken exercises with the navies of the Philippines, Japan and Korea,” he said.
During Carat there will be live fire exercises with missiles aimed at moving targets.
Another US warship participating in Carat is USS Ashland, a dock landing ship. A third ship, which was not identified, is in Sangley Point in Cavite.