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October 2016

Father, Son Share Mariner Life Aboard USNS Walter S. Diehl
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By Grady Fontana, Military Sealift Command Far East

Aboard fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193), a father and son share the joys and heartaches of life as a civilian mariner.

Mariners are all too familiar with the anguish of family separations—missed events and milestones. Life at sea will guarantee family events must sometimes be appreciated while underway or at foreign ports.

Ron McCann is the supply officer for the Walter S. Diehl, and a veteran of Military Sealift Command (MSC) for the past 25 years. If you account the six years in the Army and 15 in the Navy, the 70-year-old mariner has had more than 41 years of federal service.

He is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and has a wife who still lives there, and two adult children. “I deeply miss my family,” said Ron. “I haven’t seen my grandson in four or five years.”

Although Ron grinningly proclaims he will “probably” do another 10 years at MSC, he is not without family on the Diehl. He is serving with Shane McCann, a boatswain mate aboard the same ship, and his son.

In 1991, Ron retired from the Navy and began his MSC career. In 2001, a then 21-year-old Shane joined his father and started sailing.
Fifteen years later, Shane is still with MSC and has sailed on four ships with Ron.

“I decided to give it a chance, to go and see the world and make some money,” said Shane, who is also a father of an 11-year-old son in Guam. “Nothing was happening at home, so I decided to give it a try. It’s a good job, and I’ve learned a lot of trades…and met a lot of good people—and dad, of course.”

Shane says that the toughest part of the job is the family separation, “the longest I’ve been away from Guam is about nine months,” said Shane. But a potential upcoming trip to Guam was enough to lift his spirits.

The pair enjoys their time on the Diehl and admits the best thing about being on this ship is the camaraderie. “We have a really good crew here. We’re really tight and everyone gets along…almost everyone is mature,” Ron said with a chuckle.

Shane wanted to see the world and declares at least 15 more years with MSC. Though, he knows the reality of the ups and down of being a mariner. “The best trip…Central America: Guatemala, Panama, it was a good time,” said Shane. “But, I also have a son, so the hardest part is being away from home.”

For now, Ron and Shane enjoy their time together on the Diehl, and the years of experience that Ron has gained are passed on to Shane.

“The goal is to be a mate,” said Ron about his advice to Shane. “The end product is not what he’s doing now, but what he will do in the future.”

The USNS Walter S. Diehl is currently in Singapore after recently completing a Regular Overhaul period.

MSC operates approximately 115 civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world.