LBI Native Bethany Hartney Sees the World as Part of Navy ROTC

Aug 22, 2018
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Even before the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer went through a typhoon, instead of around it as its American counterpart did, Bethany Hartney knew this was going to be a summer to remember. She spent nearly a month in Japan as part of the U.S. Navy’s Foreign Exchange Training of Midshipmen and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Exchanges, where selected midshipmen train with navies of other countries.

Hartney, 21, a Long Beach Island native going into her senior year as a chemical engineering major at Villanova University and a member of the U.S. Navy ROTC since her freshman year, was aboard JDS Hatakaze, the lead ship of the Hatakaze class of destroyers, when the typhoon hit earlier this summer. The ship was accompanied on the water exercise by the USS Curtis Wilbur. The trip was expected to last only five days, but the typhoon extended it, she said.

“It was super intense,” Hartney said of going through the typhoon, a tropical storm in the region of the Indian or western Pacific oceans.

The Imperial Japanese Navy was dissolved following its World War II defeat, and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took its place. Hartney said the Japanese midshipmen spoke openly about Pearl Harbor, and she was able to gain insight from their perspective into the infamous attack that led the U.S. into World War II.

“They’re so grateful for us being there,” Hartney added. “I’d never been anywhere in Asia. It’s somewhere I wanted to get to, but I didn’t think it would be so soon.”

For Hartney, who travels as a member of the ROTC every summer, spending time in Japan changed her perspective for what she wants to do after college.

“I used to want to be stationed in Europe,” she said, “but after spending time in Japan, I’d love to go there.”

One of the highlights, other than driving through the typhoon, was driving the ship, Hartney said.

“I want to be on a ship, so driving it was exciting,” she said, adding she also loved being given a tour of the country by her Japanese counterparts. “They really show you what they think you should see.”

Her first impressions were how respectful everyone was to each other’s needs.

“Everyone was so welcoming, so friendly, and whenever someone needed help they went out of their way,” she said.

The second thing that struck Hartney was the silence on the trains when they traveled. She said no one spoke.

“We learned about that in our cultural training during the first week,” she said. “There’s so many people in such a small space.”

The hardest thing for her to get used to, though, was no tipping.

“It seems so small,” she said, “but coming from a shore town it was definitely weird.”

In October, Hartney will learn what her next assignment is. As long as she’s near or on the water, it’ll be fine with her.

She said of deciding to joining the Navy ROTC, “I knew I wanted to be on the water and see the world. That was a big pull, and I knew I wanted to do something.”

— Gina G. Scala

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