Las Vegas native, mine hunter, serves with the U.S. Navy half a world away

Courtesy photo

A Las Vegas native and 2014 Desert Oasis High School graduate is serving in Japan in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the forward-deployed mine countermeasures ship, USS Pioneer.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Shaun Lao is a mineman aboard the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, operating out of Sasebo, Japan. The ship routinely deploys to protect alliances, enhance partnerships, and be ready to respond if a natural disaster occurs in the region.

A Navy mineman is responsible for assisting in the detection and neutralization of underwater mines. They test various electronic components to ensure proper repair and make sure that the mine works properly. They are also responsible for safe storage, handling and loading of mines for transporting.
Lao is proud to serve in the Pacific and fondly recalls memories of Las Vegas.

“My parents always owned their own businesses, they did everything hands on, they had a good work ethic,” said Lao. “I bring what I learned from them into the Navy. I bring along that quality assurance. I make sure the job gets done right.”

Lao thus far is most proud of being the operator on the mine neutralization vehicle. He feels accomplished when he and his team can successfully fly the vehicle which detects underwater objects. He attended a rigorous school learning how to pilot the vehicle. He feels proud to actually take them out and fly them.

Moments like that make it worth serving around the world, ready at all times to defend America’s interests. With more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy’s presence in Sasebo is part of that long-standing commitment, explained Navy officials.

With a crew of more than 80, Pioneer is 224 feet long and weighs approximately 1,300 tons. Pioneer is one of the Navy’s 11 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships that are designed to neutralize mines from vital waterways and harbors. There are four minesweepers in Sasebo as part of the forward-deployed mine countermeasures force that are on-call to respond in the event of a mine-clearing operation in the Indo-Pacific.

MCMs in Sasebo routinely operate with allies and partners to build mine countermeasures proficiency and sustain our alliances.

“I enjoy being deployed here in Japan. The workload can be a lot, but you learn to get familiar with the equipment and work,” said Lao. “I also enjoy working with other nations like the British and Bahrain navies, it’s as great experience. The Navy has given me structure in my life. One thing I’ve learned is the courtesy of time, the Navy teaches you to manage time better.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Lao and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“My parents came here from the Philippines, so I’m the first generation born here in America,” said Lao. “Joining the Navy is my way to give back to the country and I’m very proud of that.”

Seventh Fleet, which is celebrating its 75th year in 2018, spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. Seventh Fleet’s area of operation encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors in the 7th Fleet.

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