Aug. 21, 2003
Pardon the public affairs officer of the USS McInerney for not getting
around to writing a story about two sisters from Florida serving aboard
the Mayport-based frigate this summer.
"The Mac" was pretty busy the past six months while on deployment to
South America, chasing down drug runners in "go-fast" boats, hosting
Navy SEALS for a mock "take down mission," and training five foreign
navies in the eastern Pacific.
While sisters serving on the same ship may be rare in the Navy, making
a big deal about it wasn't what the McInerney's training officer, Lt.
j.g. Kelly Welsh, had in mind this summer.
"There was a lot to write about during our tour instead of me and my
sister," Welsh said in a phone interview from her parents' home in Fort
"Megan spent four weeks with us on her gray hole cruise. We saw each
other about 50 percent of the time. Any more than that and she wouldn't
have benefited from the cruise as she was supposed to."
Spoken like a true big sister, and a veteran naval officer.
Welsh, 25, has just completed her third year of active duty with the
Navy, and is a 2000 graduate of the Naval Academy.
Her little sister, Megan, 20, is a junior, or second classman at
Annapolis, and, like Kelly, is a record-setting member of Navy's women's
swim team. Their father, Jeffrey Welsh, is a 1973 Naval Academy grad and
a former surface warfare officer.
Megan Welsh was stationed last month aboard the McInerney as part of
the Navy's Midshipman Summer Cruise Program. She spent four weeks on her
sister's boat, shadowing enlisted sailors to better understand their
importance to the ship and their place in the chain of command.
It was no accident that midshipman Welsh was assigned to the McInerney
Big sis made it happen.
"I said, 'Wouldn't it be cool if you could get on my ship for your
summer cruise?' " Welsh said Monday while on post-deployment leave from
"We had to pull a few strings, but my captain and the executive officer
were all for it. She met us in Panama before we transitioned home."
The younger Welsh boarded the McInerney during its final exercises, and
six weeks after the guided-missile frigate made its fourth major drug
seizure since deploying from Mayport on Feb. 3 for counter-drug
The ship seized more than 10 tons of cocaine and apprehended more than
30 smugglers during its six-month tour, according to one of the ship's
public affairs officers.
The midshipman also missed out on watching her big sister in action
after the McInerney rescued a 35-foot catamaran in mid-May.
According to the ship's Website, Welsh was the officer on deck when the
McInerney received word of a catamaran in distress 55 miles from the
frigate's position north of Panama.
The South Florida-based sailboat with three men aboard was having
steering problems in 8-foot seas when it radioed for help.
As the on-call boat officer, Welsh, along with a four-person Coast
Guard team stationed on the frigate, boarded one of the McInerney's
rigid hull inflatable boats and motored to assist the stranded
"It feels good to help out another American vessel on the high seas,"
Kelly Welsh reportedly said.
"Who knows what might have happened to them had we not been able to
The rescue came days before the McInerney, on patrol in the western
Caribbean, intercepted a drug-running speedboat loaded with three tons
"We seized over $1 billion street value in cocaine during our
deployment," Welsh added.
"Megan missed a lot of the big stuff we did, but the main thing for her
was getting to transit the Panama Canal."
Welsh said she enjoyed the cruise and having her sister on board, but
it paled compared with her first deployment in 2001 on an amphibious
platform known as a landing ship dock (LSD).
A week after 9/11, Welsh deployed out of Little Creek, Va., on the USS
Whidbey Island. The LSD set up operations in the Arabian Sea, 20 miles
off the coast of Pakistan during the early stages of the war in
More than 400 soldiers from Marine Expeditionary Unit 26 deployed from
the ship and set up combat operations in Kandahar.
"We were there four months and returned with all our Marines," she
"The opportunities I've had in the Navy have been incredible. I would
really like to make it a career."
A champion swimmer in high school at Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas
Aquinas High, Kellie Welsh was recruited to swim at Annapolis, where she
owns the women's 100-yard butterfly record and was a team captain as a
Megan also swim at Annapolis, and currently holds Navy freestyle
records for 100 and 200 yards. She qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials
"The academy really stood out to me," said Welsh, who was also
recruited to swim at Yale University. "The initial interest came from my
father, and I saw it as more of a commitment to something other than
She expects to be stationed at Mayport for another year, and hopes to
make lieutenant by next May.
During first class cruises, midshipmen entering their senior year at
Annapolis are paired with a junior grade officer as their running mate.
Megan Welsh will make her first class cruise next summer, but it might
not be with her big sister, who may have shore duty by then.
"She doesn't take orders from me very well anyway," Kellie Welsh
"There's no rank structure in our family. My sister and I are both very
dedicated. We have a real sense of pride in what we do. Wherever the
Navy sends me, I'll be happy."