OAK HARBOR, Wash. – Airman Nathaniel Denkmann, a native of Frederic, Wisconsin, joined the Navy following in his uncle’s footsteps and wanted a bigger sense of purpose.

Now, almost two years later, Denkmann serves as an aviation structural mechanic with the “The Skinny Dragons” of Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 4, working with the Navy’s cutting-edge maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.

“At this command I get to travel more and see more places than I would at other commands,” said Denkmann.

Denkmann, a 2018 graduate of Frederic High School, serves with VP-4, a high-tech maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadron tasked with monitoring the world’s oceans in the state-of-the-art P-8A “Poseidon.”

“I am responsible for maintaining the structure of the aircraft,” said Denkmann.

Denkmann credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Frederic.

“My dad taught me that you never settle,” said Denkmann. “That helps you because you never slow down and keep pushing.”

VP-4’s primary mission is to conduct maritime patrol and reconnaissance as well as long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and intelligence gathering missions. They deploy around the world to monitor the world’s oceans wherever they are needed.

The P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, is a replacement aircraft for the legacy P-3C “Orion”. According to Navy officials, leveraging the experience and technology of the successful P-3C “Orion” with the needs of the fleet, the P-8A is designed to be combat-capable, and to improve an operator’s ability to efficiently conduct anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

As the Navy transitions to the full capacity with the P-8A “Poseidon”, the aircraft continues the work- horse tradition established by the P-3C “Orion”. The P-8A has a planned state-of-the-art open architecture mission system and next-generation sensors. These capabilities give warfighters added protection. The aircraft empowers the fleet with more combat capability, responsiveness, and interoperability with traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors. The P-8A “Poseidon” has significant growth potential, with planned, phased-in technological improvements that extend global reach, payload capacity and higher-operating altitude.

“Working with the P-8 it’s kind of a rare job in the Navy,” said Denkmann. “Not a lot of people get this chance.”

Serving in the Navy means Denkmann is part of a world 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.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Denkmann is most proud of learning the toughest lessons.

“I went through some tough things, but I just had to pick myself up and keep going,” said Denkmann.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Denkmann and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy is a bigger sense of belonging,” said Denkmann. “You have that bond that’s stronger than any other when you serve with the others.”