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Jonah Waage serves as aviation electronics technician as 26 nations gather in Pacific Ocean.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonah Waage, a 2019 graduate of Milwaukie High School and an aviation electronics technician aboard the USS Essex, is taking part in the world's largest international maritime exercise through Aug. 4.

Waage is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of the 28th biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise taking place from the coast of California to the Hawaiian Islands. In operation since 1971, this is the first RIMPAC exercise since 2018, having been shut down in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.COURTESY PHOTO: U.S. NAVY/ETHAN CARTER - Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonah Waage is a 2019 graduate of Milwaukie High School and an aviation electronics technician aboard USS Essex.

As an electronics technician, Waage is responsible for the maintenance of radars, avionics and navigation systems on board naval vessels. He checks on equipment and calibrates many aviation electronics systems on a regular basis.

"I learned the value of hard work from my family and the part-time jobs I have held during high school," Waage said. "Those jobs were minor compared to what I do now, but the work ethic I learned from them stays with me today."

This year's RIMPAC exercise will see participants from 26 nations including forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

The operation is meant to provide a unique training opportunity to help participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring safety at sea and security on the world's oceans. The exercise also gives the U.S. an opportunity to put on a show of multilateral cooperation, or collective action, against a more assertive China.

China was invited to RIMPAC in 2014 and 2016, but that invitation was retracted during the Trump administration due to China's overlapping territorial claims with other Asian nations in the South China Sea.

But China is still there, watching from the sidelines.

The People's Liberation Army Navy's auxiliary general intelligence ship has been operating in the exclusive economic zone off the coast of Hawaii since July 11, according to U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown.

Serving in the Navy means Waage is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America's focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

"In the Navy, we keep the waters free and the cargo lanes open for commerce," Waage said. "Having our presence everywhere around the world is a big part of our mission."

The theme of RIMPAC 2022 is Capable, Adaptive, Partners. Participating nations and naval forces bring with them a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the differences in ability and focus of various maritime forces. The realistic training program includes, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as amphibious, counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations.

Like most sailors on taking part in a large exercise like this one, Waage is looking forward to his "liberty," or time off from duties.

"At RIMPAC, I'm looking forward to meeting all the sailors from the other countries," Waage said. "I'm really interested in learning their customs and traditions."

Considering there are 26 participating countries — fielding 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, nearly 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel training in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California — Waage will most likely get his chance to meet fellow sailors from all around the world.

Waage and other sailors consider themselves to be part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, in providing the Navy the nation needs.

"Service in the Navy means I am putting the interests of my shipmates and my country in front of mine," added Waage. "Doing what I do benefits everyone."

More than 90% of all trade travels by sea, and 95% of the world's international phone and internet traffic is carried through fiber optic cables on the ocean floor. High oil prices may have increased the cost of goods recently, but Navy officials say that the U.S. presence at sea is preventing an even more astronomical increase in prices at checkout stands, making the Navy a direct link to national prosperity and security.

"I'm really proud of becoming a petty officer second class in under five years," Waage said. "Now it's time to get to work, and lead sailors to their next level of responsibility."

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