Interview with Capt. Francis X. Martin
July 2, 2008
Capt. Francis X. Martin took command of Sasebo Naval Base in April. Since 2003, he realigned South Korea’s Chinhae Naval Base with the Navy’s new business principles and aided with recovery from natural disasters in Louisiana and Pakistan. Now, he wants to improve the quality of life for sailors and families in Sasebo. Stars and Stripes interviewed the commanding officer last week.
What are your initial impressions of Sasebo?
It is absolutely beautiful, and I feel very, very lucky to be here. As you look up and see the harbor and having a city of 250,000 people around us who are very warm and welcoming, we have a beautiful environment to live in. The way that the base has been maintained is providing excellent facilities as far as the gym, commissary and the new exchange. The welcome by the city is the most outstanding and memorable in 24 years of naval service.
What are your goals for Sasebo Naval Base?
My goals for the base are to continue this focus on supporting the fleet and their families. Specifically, I want to be expanding [Morale, Welfare and Recreation] opportunities off the base. I am also putting more emphasis on tracking of our new arrivals and care of new people from the moment they get off the plane to getting them productive in their workplace. We are doing it at a high standard now but there are some parts in there that I really want to enhance.
Over the past few years, you’ve assisted with relief during Hurricane Katrina, headed up the U.S. relief effort after a massive earthquake in Pakistan, worked on national hurricane preparation and planned crisis response in Bahrain. What is the attraction to emergency response work?
It is a mission that is now becoming ever more important in the U.S. Navy skill set, and it is also very rewarding. Taking a helicopter over [New Orleans] and seeing the devastation, it was really very moving to help out with the relief effort. About 1,300 to 1,400 were dead in New Orleans. In Pakistan, 73,000 were dead (after an October 2005 earthquake in the Kashmir region). In Pakistan, you would fly for 2 1/2 hours and see nothing but leveled villages. We had a tremendous effect. Thousands of people were lining up (for assistance).
Going from managing earthquake relief to commanding a base seems like a big change. Has there been a period of adjustment?
If anything, I see it as a very good fit between the skills it takes to organize a headquarters and organize a relief effort. The base’s role is to help out Americans, but it is also tasked with helping out the [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] and the Ground Self-Defense Force with a typhoon or hurricane that could hit here. I think the planning and skill of providing humanitarian assistance and understanding that mission is something that is growing (in the Navy).
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy golfing. I took my three boys, and we did a Father’s Day golf tournament. I have three boys who are 16, 14 and 12 years old and an 8-year-old daughter. So, with four kids and work, there is not much time.
Do you eat Japanese food?
We do, as a family, enjoy going out to Japanese restaurants. My kids eat everything that is put in front of them.