By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach
CANADIAN ARCTIC – A 1997 Theodore Roosevelt High School graduate and native of Gary, Indiana, participated in Operation Nanook-Tuugaalik 2020, a multinational maritime exercise conducted in the Canadian Arctic, Aug 4 to 24.
Petty Officer 1st Class Valerie J. Morgan is serving aboard USS Thomas Hudner, a guided-missile destroyer, that is taking part in the exercise which focuses on multiple warfare areas including maritime interdiction operations, ice diving, air defense, damage control, search and rescue and amphibious operations.
Operation Nanook-Tuugaalik is the Canadian Armed Forces’ signature northern operation comprised of a series of comprehensive, joint, interagency, and multinational activities designed to exercise the defense of Canada and security in the region. This includes capability-building operations conducted over the course of a year in Canada’s northern and Arctic regions through training, developing partnerships, and improving the readiness of all participants.
Morgan is a personnel specialist responsible for all military personnel administrative affairs such as pay, life insurance, military benefits and personal records.
“It takes sailors to complete the mission but if their finances are not in order, it causes distractions,” Morgan said. “I am the person everyone depends on to ensure their pay entitlements are accurate as well as advancement and promotion opportunities are fulfilled.”
Approximately 350 sailors assigned to USS Thomas Hudner will participate alongside U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian, French, and Danish allies to enhance their Arctic capabilities, and meet the requirements outlined in each nation’s respective defense policies.
“I enjoy taking care of my sailors,” Morgan said. “They are the most important piece to our ship’s puzzle. Without them our mission would be incomplete. They are the driving force and they sacrifice so much of their time, life and mental health every day.”
Held annually since 2007, Operation Nanook-Tuugaalik has consisted of one or two major activities during August and September. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions, it will be a shorter deployment than in previous years, with no planned port visits or community relations activities.
According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world, as more than 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water and 90 percent of all trade travels by sea.
The foundation of the Navy the nation needs includes a focus on warfighting, warfighters and the future of the fighting force.
“I am confident that we will maximize the Navy we have today while delivering the Navy that our nation will rely upon tomorrow,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “We will do so with urgency. Our fleet will be a potent, formidable force that competes around the world every day, deterring those who would challenge us while reassuring our allies and partners.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Morgan, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.
“I joined the Navy to carry on a family tradition but also to get out of the environment I was living in,” Morgan said. “I wanted to travel the world, be able to pay for college and provide a better life for my children.”
“My grandfather, Alonzo Swann, Sr., received the Navy Cross after years of fighting serving on board USS Intrepid,” Morgan added. “I am glad my grandfather was able receive such an honor before he passed away. I’m proud to say my grandfather made history and his bio is in the USS Intrepid Museum located in New York. He deserves a spot in Navy history!”