Boyertown native and mine hunter serves with U.S. Navy half a world away

Petty Officer 2nd Class Harlan Swavely
Petty Officer 2nd Class Harlan Swavely

A Boyertown native and 2014 Daniel Boone High School graduate is serving in Japan in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the forward-deployed mine countermeasures ship, USS Pioneer. Petty Officer 2nd Class Harlan Swavely is a quartermaster aboard the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, operating out of Sasebo, Japan. The ship routinely deploys to protect alliances, enhance partnerships, and be ready to respond if a natural disaster occurs in the region.

A Navy quartermaster is responsible for operating electronic navigation equipment to conduct weather observations, determine compass and gyro error, compute tide and tidal current data, keep navigational and oceanographic publications, and keep logs and records. They send and receive visual messages and serve as petty officers in charge of small craft. They serve as assistants to officers of the deck and the navigator and as helmsman and perform ship control. They render “honors and ceremonies” in accordance with national observance and foreign custom.

Swavely is proud to serve in the Pacific and fondly recalls memories of Boyertown.

“I had a job in summers growing up working on diesel equipment for a transportation company,” said Swavely. “The time I spent working there came in handy in the Navy.”

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Swavely thus far is proud of making rank as quickly as he has. He knows that leadership will come with that. He feels proud knowing he is put into a position of leadership. He feels accomplished with the work he has done.

Moments like that makes it worth serving around the world ready at all times to defend America’s interests. 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 Sasebo is part of that long-standing commitment, explained Navy officials.

With a crew of more than 80, Pioneer is 224 feet long and weighs approximately 1,300 tons. Pioneer is one of the Navy’s 11 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships that are designed to neutralize mines from vital waterways and harbors. There are four minesweepers in Sasebo as part of the forward-deployed mine countermeasures force that are on-call to respond in the event of a mine-clearing operation in the Indo-Pacific.

MCMs in Sasebo routinely operate with allies and partners to build mine countermeasures proficiency and sustain our alliances.

“Being deployed overseas can be tough, you’re so far away from family,” said Smavely. “I really enjoy being here in Japan, I enjoy seeing Asia. It’s a nice experience. I feel like the Navy has benefited me in so many ways. It’s opened my eyes on what I see as important. It’s put me in a better position than I was before.”

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

“I enjoy the people that I met here in the Navy,” said Swavely. “It’s a blessing to meet these people and to get to know them.”