JUNE 29, 2016, PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) – One of the hardest assignments for an enlisted Sailor is serving as leading petty officer (LPO) at sea. LPOs are usually the first ones to work and the last to leave. Although the job is tough, some manage to flourish under pressure, absorbing the load and redirecting in a positive way.
Serving on amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is Engineman 1st Class (EN1) Joe Maldonado, assigned to Engineering Department’s auxiliary division, known as A-Gang.
Maldonado is the A-Gang leading petty officer, responsible for all six work centers and spaces which span the highest and lowest points of the ship, as well as the forward-most and aft-most parts of the ship.
The division is responsible for the ship’s whistle, anchor windlass, all six diesel engines, the ship’s hydraulic systems, air conditioning, aircraft elevators, and potable water throughout the ship.
“We are involved in a lot of different services,” said Senior Chief Engineman Mara Boule, A-Gang’s leading chief petty officer. “It’s a big, big division and it may be the hardest division on any ship to manage.”
With the amount of systems and equipment to manage, A-Gang supervisor is not the typical nine-to-five job.
“Unfortunately in engineering, things pop up last minute, and we have the mentality that we cannot leave stuff for tomorrow,” said Maldonado. “I have two kids and my wife, and they understand. My wife makes it easy on me, and if there’s a day where I miss hanging out with my kids, I always make it up to them.”
Among the day-to-day controlled chaos of being an engineer, Maldonado maintains an approachable personality, which helps him succeed as a leader not only in his division, but throughout the entire ship. People want to talk to him, and this allows him to reach out and train more Sailors.
“People gravitate toward him; he just has that personality about him,” said Boule. “He’s about getting the job done and he’s still approachable. Junior Sailors love working for him. He can be hard on them, but they respond better to him because he is so likable. When he’s hard on them, they understand that it’s for them — it’s to better them.”
“He’s a great guy, he treats everybody fairly,” said Engineman 2nd Class Kenneth Lake. “At times he has to make certain calls that he knows may not sit well with everyone, but he handles that in a very professional manner. I think he always tries to look out for the best interest of everyone.”
With 37 Sailors in the division to manage and what seems to be an endless amount of equipment and systems to maintain, Maldonado has made time to impact Sailors all over the ship by helping them qualify as enlisted surface warfare specialists (ESWS).
After a full workday and often during his lunch time, Maldonado gives tours of the engineering plant and explains the operation of vital equipment to Sailors who are working on their ESWS qualification. Additionally, he serves as an engineering representative during the command’s weekly ESWS boards.
“A lot of people ask me why I spend so much time on ESWS when I’m already so busy,” said Maldonado. “At the end of the day, everything comes down to helping the Sailor. When I was an engineman [fireman], people made time to help me, and I think it’s important for me to do the same.”
“He is a very knowledgeable Sailor that has continually supported the ESWS program,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Erin Castillo, America’s assistant ESWS coordinator. “He has qualified about 60 Sailors this year and is always willing to help them learn the engineering portion of ESWS.”
EN1 is also motivated when it comes to furthering his own career and level of knowledge. When he is not helping others learn, Maldonado works on higher qualifications for himself. He is part of the engineering training team and is one of six petty officers first class qualified as engineering duty officer (EDO), a qualification above his pay grade and a vital qualification to an America-class ship.
“EDO on this platform is a big deal,” said Boule. “EDO is the [Chief Engineer] when CHENG is not here. He is a direct representative of CHENG, so he makes decisions that affect everyone on board.”
Maldonado believes doing his job is important and it is equally important to take care of the people under his charge.
“We’re one of the hardest working divisions on the ship,” he said. “The most enjoyable part to me is getting around and talking to every single person in my division every day. This is a tough job, and it’s important to me to know how everyone is doing.”
“To me, he’s a role model for Sailors to emulate; he has a style of leadership that people will learn from and take pieces that work for them,” said Boule. “He’s an overall great guy; [he’s] proactive, leads Sailors, speaks out when he needs to, and stands out in front.”