Navy sailors share how growing up along the Lakeshore prepared them for service

Although Felipe Avila-Groesbeck and Elliott Andersen grew up about 60 miles apart along the Lakeshore, their dreams were similar.

Both wanted to serve their country. Today, both are part of America’s “Silent Service,” the Navy’s submarine force. These technologically advanced vessels are capable of conducting rapid defensive and offensive operations around the world.

Andersen, a Wayland High grad, joined the Navy in 2016, and Avila-Groesbeck, a Muskegon High grad, signed on in 2018.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Avila-Groesbeck is serving aboard the USS Wyoming, one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines. He is an electronics technician whose responsibilities include maintaining and operating electronics systems on the boat.

Avila-Groesbeck says he is living his dream. 

“The Navy offered me a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of serving on a submarine. I watched movies about subs growing up, and it really interested me,” says Avila-Groesbeck, whose story was recently shared by the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Andersen is stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, homeport to all East Coast ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines.

“I joined the Navy to travel and to create a better future for myself,” Andersen says in an interview with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Andersen currently serves as a master-at-arms. His responsibilities include keeping law and order and discipline.

Hometown values

He says the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Wayland.

“I was a wrestler in my hometown, so I learned discipline and hard work from that,” Andersen says.

Avila-Groesbeck says he learned resilience growing up in Muskegon. 

“My hometown taught me that you get what you get,” says Avila-Groesbeck. “You don't always get a fair shake, but you keep on trucking. That's very useful in the Navy.”

Serving in the Navy means Andersen and Avila-Groesbeck are part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“I work on a ballistic missile submarine, so dealing with national security is very integrated into that,” says Avila-Groesbeck. “We deal with deterrence, and by doing our job we ensure that other countries don't attack us.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Felipe Avila-Groesbeck is a Muskegon High grad.

With more than 90% of all trade traveling by sea, and 95% of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through underwater fiber optic, Navy officials emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong Navy. 

A major component of that maritime security is based at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. The homeport is responsible for sending ballistic-missile submarines on strategic deterrence patrols and deploying guided-missile submarines overseas.

Serving their country

“This work is essential to uphold the No. 1 mission of the Navy: strategic deterrence. And this is the only homeport for both of these types of submarines on the East Coast,” Rear Adm. John Spencer, commander of Submarine Group Ten, says in a statement. 

As Avila-Groesbeck and other sailors continue to train and perform their missions, they take pride in serving their country.

“Serving in the Navy means that I am able to support my family back home,” says Avila-Groesbeck. “When my family needs help back home, I am able to help them out. The Navy gives me a chance to take a step up in life.”

As a member of the submarine force, Avila-Groesbeck and Andersen are part of the 121-year history of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile weapons platform, capable of taking the fight to the enemy in the defense of America and its allies.

“We are the freedom fighters for the water,” says Andersen. “We are the ones defending everything across the sea in terms of support for everything on land.”
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.