Local Hero Keeping Us Safe Half a World Away

before the navy

Mathew before the Navy.

50 cal shoot

As the ship traveled at nearly full speed, Vogel practices shooting a 50cal at a training target put in the water.

after

Vogel after joining the Navy, with his wife, Brandy.

21 gun salute

Vogel (far left) taking part in a 21-gun salute for a ceremony honoring the memory of the USS Cole bombing victims.

unrep

This is a picture of Vogel (first one visible on the line) and his shipmates during an underway replenishment. They pulled a fuel line over that hooks up to the black hose in the back of the photo. They then run the line through heavy duty pulleys giving them more room to pull to complete the task.

Somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, a young man, who calls Belton, MO home, operates a 5in/54caliber gun on the front of the USS Cole. How exactly did a kid from land-locked Missouri end up in the United States Navy? Fire controlman 2nd Class Mathew Vogel took some time from his busy schedule to talk about his journey.
He is the son of two retired members of the Marine Corps who settled in Belton. Vogel attended Scott, Mill Creek, Yoekum, the 9th Grade Center and Belton High School where he graduated in 2011. The youngest of five children, he was the only one to choose to serve in the military. “For a while my parents thought they wouldn’t have any child join the navy, I was the last one out of five and then I broke it to them senior year, that was a sight to see. In all honesty I thought they would recommend me to the Marine Corps. They didn’t however, they talked with me about the air force and navy, because they were so proud I wanted to serve, but they wanted me to gain more skills I could use when I got out. I debated it for a month or so and decided the navy would be more of a challenge for me, and I didn’t want to take the easy route, and well, it definitely wasn’t,” said Vogel.
On November 9th, 2011, Matthew Vogel began his service in the Navy. In boot camp he specialized in the advanced electronics/computer field. From there he received orders to become a Fire Controlman. He completed Apprentice Technical Training, then FC “A” school where he learned more about computers, radar, and gunnery. After “A” school he was able to choose a position on a “C” school and he picked to be a 5in gunner on the USS Cole. While waiting to get to the USS Cole, Vogel completed basic firefighting and as well as basic and advances security reaction force training. Once he was on boarded the ship he became part of the main security detail both at port and afloat and has been trained to use “everything from a 50-caliber M2HB machine gun and an M240B 7.62 Machine gun to just an M16 and M9.”
“Since then I have learned and have been trained in many other things but my main job on board is Operating the 5in/54caliber gun on the front of the ship for whatever the country needs me to do,” stated Vogel.
When asked what he liked best about being in the Navy, he gave a very typical guy answer – shooting. “The gun shoots and our shooting practice out to sea. It’s exhilarating to shoot 50 cal’s out to sea but nothing beats shooting 5 inch. Launching a 70lb projectile at the horizon hitting a training target you almost cant see even with a camera zoomed in and it’s moving. The feeling it gives when the explosives go off sending that round down range is unlike any other. No matter what happens I’ll miss that when I get out.”
He also talked about all the places he has been able to visit while being in the Navy.
“I’ve been to Chicago, Norfolk, Key west, and New York. But that’s just what I’ve been to in the States. I’ve been to England, Scotland, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Romania, and I was in Israel for Christmas,” exclaimed Vogel
Anyone who has served or has a loved one who has served knows how hard the long separations can be. Vogel, who is almost 22, will be celebrating his third wedding anniversary next month. “Its hard though. REALLY hard. Being apart this long from both my family and my wife has been the hardest thing I’ve done my entire life. What helps are the emails and then sometimes I can get a phone call out here and there, about once a week. I myself dream of being home almost every day with my wife, my dog, and two cats, seeing my mother and father and siblings, all nine of my nieces and nephews, and my one great nephew. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of them. I’ve spent months out to sea in the open ocean working harder than I ever have in my life, day and night, spending all night awake to protect the ship many nights. I’m still not sure if I’m going to make this a careen yet. I still have three years of my six year contract left. I am probably going to re-enlist for another four years because me and my wife want to start a family and if I get shore duty that would make transitioning into a civilian again much easier,” explained Vogel.
While it is certainly an honor to serve on any ship and each one has a special place in history, the USS Cole is extraordinary as the sight of one of the earliest al-Qaeda attacks that claimed American lives. On October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. The blast ripped a 40-foot-wide hole near the waterline of the Cole, killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39 others. The blast hit the ship’s galley, where crew were lining up for lunch. For three days the crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces before gaining control of the damage.
“Its history just makes us more determined to never let that happen to anyone ever again. The Mess Decks (where we eat) and the Chow line are dedicated to those lost in the bombing. There are 17 Brass stars on the deck in the chow line in remembrance to those who died in the line of duty. And our mess decks have been named the Hero café. There are 3 Shadow boxes, 1 with the flag from the bombing, one that was draped over the ashes of those returned to sea, and one from the day the Cole returned to Aden Yemen after being repaired and flew its flag high as everyone sang the national anthem loudly in protest to those who would strike them down. It definitely humbles us,” said Vogel reverently.
While there are many who are very patriotic and recognize the sacrifices made by our military personnel, for many there is still ambivalence towards what it means to serve this country on a daily basis. Having just finished with all of the festivities of the holidays, Vogel’s words are all the more poignant.
“Serving out here, doing the things we do. You never realize they matter so much. I never realized until I was over here that Americas’ Navy is not only the largest in the world but the most versatile and robust. We do everything from community relations in foreign allies’ countries, painting schoolhouses and doing small repair work, to patrolling the Mediterranean and Black Seas for pirates. But that’s not all we do. In my time in we have watched the skies and hostile countries for ballistic missile launches. That’s why we’re here, to protect the skies as well as the seas. Once we see one we plan out quickly and send missiles up to intercept it to stop it and possibly save the lives of countless people. But we have also received a distress call from a small ship outside of Virginia and saved the lives of three people, with the help of the Coast Guard, from a ship stuck out to sea in a storm and taking on water. We stand this watch so those at home can sleep well at night knowing we’re here to protect them from afar, keeping a presence out here so no one tries to harm those we love back home. A world of peace sounds perfect, but we all know it’s not, so we are here doing our job day and night, with no holidays when deployed, to make sure everyone back home is ok.”
Recognition of their service can take on a variety of appearances. Vogel suggests that those who want to support military personnel should contact their local Veterans Association to find out where and how they can help.
“Be involved in communities like Operation Gratitude who send care packages to those deployed (you have no idea how much these mean to us). If you know someone in the military, talk with them, support them in any way you can, because though we may not show it, many of us get beaten down and tired with the work we do. Something as simple as a handshake and a thank you can lift our spirits instantly,” recommends Vogel.
The last thing he wanted to leave with those back home is just how much every service member gives to his or her job in order to protect those he or she loves.
“Don’t think a day goes by that any sailor, soldier, marine, or guard doesn’t think about you back home. Dreaming of a nice hot meal and a quite night with the family with land under their feet in the safety of their own homes. We carry this burden with us everywhere we go. You may agree with the politics going around the United States, you may not. But please no matter what, support us. We definitely need it. My family and friends are what have gotten my through this as well as I have. Thank you to everyone. Happy new years from the Mediterranean sea!”

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