Johnsburg native named one of Navy’s junior officer ship handlers of the year

Navy Lt. Benjamin Pedersen currently is serving as the navigator of the USS Patriot deployed to Sasebo, Japan

Navy Lt. Benjamin Pedersen of Johnsburg was named by the Commander Naval Surface Force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet as the Junior Officer Ship Handler of the Year, the U.S. Navy said in a news release.

Pedersen is currently serving as the navigator of the USS Patriot deployed to Sasebo, Japan.

”I am excited to have been selected for this award and to represent the Patriot,” Pederson said in the release. “Our ship is like one big family, so it means a lot for them to share this achievement with me.”

Pedersen graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in nutrition and exercise physiology and commissioned in 2016 where he started his journey through the Surface Warfare Officer pipeline.

”Pedersen is not only an excellent navigator, he has been a great officer and mentor to his peers,” Lt. Cmdr. Earvin Taylor, commanding officer of Patriot, said in the release. “It has been great to see him grow as a Surface Warfare Officer and a leader while on board Patriot.”

Pedersen earned the honor by winning a competition within the Navy where navigators are scored on their skills and ability to properly guide their ship. He was also the only officer in the top five participants to receive a perfect score on his international maritime rules of the road exam.

Pedersen said his fellow sailors and training made him successful.

”Being on a minesweeper, you get a lot of bridge time,” Pedersen said. “Ship handling is bigger than just one officer. It’s the entirety of the crew that makes the ship run smoothly.”

The USS Patriot is a minesweeper, which is tasked with removing underwater mines.

Pedersen will represent Surface Forces Pacific to compete against his counterpart from the Atlantic division in the final round of the competition.

“Minesweep junior officers, especially those assigned to forward-deployed naval forces, are historically incredible ship handlers due to the amount of valuable bridge time and watch team leadership they get while being forward-deployed,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7.

Both competitors will be evaluated on ship handling and leadership skills. A rules of the road exam may come into play to decide the winner in the case of a tie.

Forward deployed vessels like the Patriot are expected to be the first point of contact in military conflicts between U.S. forces and enemy combatants.