SAN DIEGO — A St. George native and 2013 Snow Canyon High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.
Seaman Allen McKelleb is a ship’s serviceman aboard the amphibious assault ship operating out of San Diego. A ship’s serviceman is responsible for cutting hair and ensuring the ship’s store is fully stocked and vending machines are operational.
McKelleb said he credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons he learned growing up in St. George.
“I grew up in a smaller city and I learned that the bigger cities are definitely different,” McKelleb said. “Staying in your hometown doesn’t always prepare you for the real world. The Navy is a more tight-knit community and everyone is always willing to help.”
Makin Island, one of the Navy’s most advanced and largest amphibious ships, is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts.
The ship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, is longer than two football fields at 847 feet, is 106 feet wide and weighs more than 41,000 tons fully loaded. It has gas turbine engines and two variable speed electric motors that can push the ship through the water in excess of 20 knots. It can carry more than 12 helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Makin Island. More than 1,000 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 1,700 Marines can be embarked. It is capable of transporting Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing craft.
“Makin Island is one of the most advanced warships on the waterfront, but she’s nothing without her crew,” said Capt. David Oden, commanding officer of Makin Island. “They’ve proved themselves time and time again, and their level of professionalism and dedication is second to none.”
These amphibious assault ships project power from the sea serving as the cornerstone of the amphibious ready group. Makin Island was delivered to the Navy in April 2009 and is the first U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship to be equipped with both gas turbines and auxiliary propulsion system instead of steam boilers.
These ships support special operations and expeditionary warfare missions, transporting U.S. Marines from sea to shore through a combination of aircraft and water landing craft. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.
McKelleb has military ties with family members who have previously served and said he is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My brother is in the Army Reserve, my cousin is in the Marines, and I have another cousin who retired from the Navy,” McKelleb said. “They all influenced my decision to join. My cousin in the Marines is such an upstanding guy. I saw how the military turned my brother’s life around. He was homeless and now he is set. My cousin that retired from the Navy was already a great guy and the Navy just made him even better.”
McKelleb has been awarded with a Good Conduct Award, a Global War on Terrorism pin and an Armed Forces Service Medal. He was part of the crew that earned a Battle E for a deployment in 2017.
“Serving in the Navy means not only can I serve my country and keep it free but also I can help other people who could be going through things,” McKelleb said, adding that it’s a great way to learn about cultures abroad and in the U.S.
Written by Kayla Turnbow, Navy Office of Community Outreach.