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Festival's Fleet Week brings sailor home

Milwaukie shipmate uses brief liberty in Portland to reconnect with family, friends
by: Christopher Onstott Johnathan Agner, a 2001 graduate of Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie, has been in the Navy for three years, stands watch on the fantail of the USS Ingraham. As part of the Small Caliber Action Team, his job is to man a 240 machine gun, that is unmounted and opens up on the deck.

He's sailed into Jordan, Israel and even into the tiny port of Palau, south of the Philippines, but last week was the first time that Johnathan Agner had sailed into Portland.

The irony is that he was born and raised in Milwaukie, graduating from Rex Putnam High School in 2001.

Agner was one of 180 sailors and nearly 150 guests aboard the USS Ingraham, as it entered the Willamette River and majestically made its way to Portland. The 450-foot Navy frigate passed under bridges, its more than 100-foot mast barely squeaking through, and docked on the waterfront June 9, to take part in Rose Festival's Fleet Week activities.

Also on the ship was Ensign Kristin Lee Kreyenhagen, one of only seven women officers aboard the Ingraham, who was looking forward to her very first visit to Portland.

While Kreyenhagen was hoping to sample some of Portland's nightlife, Agner planned to reconnect with his family, including his wife Flora, who traveled from the couple's home in Everett, Wash.

For both, the Rose Festival assignment was something of a surprise, as the Ingraham was a last-minute replacement for the USS Shoup, a much larger destroyer-class ship that would not have been able to fit under Portland's bridges, due to high water.

It is one of 'the greatest strengths of the Navy that a whole ship and crew of 180 can adjust at the drop of a hat,' Kreyenhagen says. 'Our ship had just spent two months in San Diego, and on our way home we found out that we were going to be coming to the Portland Rose Festival. With a week's notice the ship was able to prepare to put on a show for the Rose Festival and to adjust our schedule to do a change of command down here in Portland.'

Close quarters

Agner, an E-4 electronics technician, has been in the Navy for nearly three years; he says the best thing about being in the military is the nearly nine months of training he received at apprentice school in Chicago, the stability and health benefits and the opportunity to travel.

Life onboard is 'similar to being on shore, but at the end of the workday you stay on the ship,' he says. 'Because of the close proximity, you bond with your shipmates, but we do look forward to pulling into shore.'

His longest deployment ended in April 2010, and he said it was a challenge dealing with tight quarters for seven months.

Kreyenhagen, who has been in the Navy for only one year, and is the anti-submarine warfare officer and the ship's public affairs officer, also knows a little something about tight quarters.

'I live in a six bunk-man stateroom with three other females,' she says. 'We are scheduled to get two more women in July and our little room will be packed. We aren't strictly separated from the men, as the only difference is our sleeping quarters. We share two bathrooms and two showers amongst the 23 officers in the wardroom without consideration to their sex.

'Being a female is challenging at times, because of the close quarters, but webond together and make it work. There is always strength in numbers and I am happy to have more females,' she adds.

Kreyenhagen joined the Navy last May. 'You meet great and fascinating people from all over the United States and the world,' she says. 'You work out your differences to live together in close quarters and you learn to be friends and accept everyone. I know that some of the people that I have met here will be my friends for life, even when the Navy takes us to different corners of the world.'

Agner plans to make the Navy his career as well, and has some advice for those considering the military.

He says: 'Think seriously about it; there are always going to be good parts and bad parts, but this is definitely something that has worked out for me.'