Miami Man Made Captain of USS Florida

US Navy | May. 10, 2022

By Lt. Stuart Philips, Commander, Submarine Group 10

KINGS BAY, Ga.: The summer before what would have been his first year of college, 17-year-old Gabriel Anseeuw was working full time and playing gigs with his bandmates on the weekend. The day before his college orientation at Florida International University, he stopped for a red light at the intersection of Kendall Drive and Southwest 117th Avenue in Miami. Looking to his left, he saw a Navy recruiting station. Little did he know, that moment would change the course of his entire life.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1973, Anseeuw and his family moved to Miami shortly before his tenth birthday. He spent that summer with his uncle Juan Carlos Fernandez, a U.S. Air Force captain who was stationed in Panama. While staying with his uncle they visited a Navy frigate, the USS Stein.

“That, I believe, planted the seed for my interest in the Navy,” said Anseeuw.

The Navy chapter would come later. For now, he was a new kid in Miami. Not yet proficient in English, he had to learn fast. He went to three schools: Loyola for 5th and 6th grade, Belen Jesuit for 7th and 8th, and Saint Brendan High School for 9th-12th.

“While I was raised in Puerto Rico and have lifelong friendships from there, I grew up in Miami,” explained Anseeuw. “That is my hometown.”

But Miami would not be his home for long. He had seen the Navy recruiting station and walked in there on a whim.

“That day, I took the ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] and NFQT [Nuclear Field Qualification Test] and enlisted,” said Anseeuw.

Because he was still a minor at the time, he needed a waiver from his parents before his enlistment would be valid. Off he went to Recruit Training Command Orlando, followed by apprentice school (A-school) for electrician’s mates. While in A-school, Anseeuw heard about officer programs and with the help of Chief Electrician’s Mate Scott Wolf, he applied for Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. Ultimately, he also applied and was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, in great part, so that I would not have any regrets about at least not having tried,” said Anseeuw. “When I was notified of my appointment, I have to admit I was surprised, as I never thought I would get accepted, even before I ever enlisted. I was floored.”

Some people join the military to see the world, but joining the Navy would not take Anseeuw away from his home state for good. It would seem that all roads lead to back to Florida—he has been stationed in the state five times in his career. Now stationed in southeast Georgia, more than 30 years after enlisting on a whim, the Miami native is the commanding officer of his home state’s namesake submarine, the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida’s (SSGN 728) Blue Crew. He still lives in Florida.

Guided-missile submarines have two crews assigned to them. The Blue and Gold crews alternate manning the submarine. This allows for the submarine to deploy more frequently without burning out the Sailors.

Of the 70 active submarines in the fleet, only a handful have both men and women serving in their crews at this time. USS Florida is one of them. It was first announced that women were authorized to serve onboard submarines when Anseeuw was working in Arlington, Virginia at the Nuclear Propulsion Program Management office. It would take years of planning before the Navy would see a fully gender-integrated crew. The first step began in 2011, when female officers began deploying aboard submarines. The female enlisted Sailors would be integrated into the crew at a later date.

“I was part of the small group of officers who wrote the plan that was ultimately approved by the Secretary of the Navy, and screened all initial applicants,” said Anseeuw.

He saw that plan come to fruition and naval history being made. Even better, Anseeuw got to implement the plan in the fleet when he reported as the executive officer aboard the ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) and the first group of women officers reported for duty. Early in 2022, on that same ship, the 15 enlisted women serving aboard USS Wyoming’s Blue Crew made history when they became the first enlisted female crew to complete a ballistic-missile submarine “boomer” deterrent patrol. All future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and all Virginia-class fast attack submarines, will have enlisted women in their crews.

Although women make up slightly more than half the U.S. population, that percentage is not yet reflected in the Navy’s ranks. Anseeuw said women represent an important talent pool for the Navy.

“To remain the best Navy in the world, we must draw from the entire population of talent,” said Anseeuw.

As the commanding officer (CO) of USS Florida, he says it’s humbling to lead such a great crew.

“There are so many great things about being a CO,” said Anseeuw. “The best however, is seeing a team come together to get the job done. Seeing the growth in a crew as they train practice and develop their skillsets is simply put—amazing.”

Anseeuw said although he never had any intention of joining the Navy, it has been one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“Whatever you think you are going to do in this world, even if you accomplish every goal, will not look like what you imagined originally,” he said. “I started out as a fireman recruit, now I’m a captain.”

Known as America’s “Silent Service,” the Navy’s submarine force operates a large fleet of technically advanced vessels. These submarines are capable of conducting rapid defensive and offensive operations around the world, in furtherance of U.S. national security. Guided-missile submarines (SSGN) like USS Florida provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform. Each SSGN is capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, plus a complement of heavyweight torpedoes to be fired through four torpedo tubes. As a member of the submarine force, Anseeuw is part of a rich 122-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.

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through underwater fiber optic, the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy. USS Florida is a major contributor to our maritime security and she is homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

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