Third Officer → Master
Some people only dream of a life at sea, and others make it happen; Roshenda Josephs rose through the ranks to become the first black female Master at Military Sealift Command in early 2021. She was recently recognized by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the promotion to Ship’s Master in Military Sealift Command’s fleet of ships.
It is hard to believe that being a mariner was not on her radar until her first college visit to Kings Point; “I went from an aspiring judge to an aspiring sailor, a life-changing decision, but I love what I do." Kings Point is the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York. Josephs was destined for big things and set her sights on a course to travel the world. She joined (MSC) in 2013 after sailing on a few commercial ships and as a cadet. “I decided to join MSC due to its immediate capacity to work closely with the military and maintain a civilian status.
There are pros and cons for every job, so when asked about her first impression of being at sea, she acknowledged the sacrifice, and said “I view it as a way to fully concentrate on work without the typical distractions.” As for the perks, her most memorable position was as Navigator on the USNS Zeus. “We went to some awesome places, and I charted the vessel’s track pretty much across the- world."
A world traveler that still gets excited about opportunities to work, visit and positively impact beautiful places, Josephs recalls when they docked in Subic, Philippines, “a few shipmates and I helped at a local orphanage; it was nice to get to know the staff and play games with the children. "The genuine kindness, joy, and gratitude of the people is something I strive for in my own life.”
Family, career, and faith are top priorities in Josephs’s life. She grew up in Washington DC and has always considered herself structured, motivated, and calm under pressure. Although sailing, in the role of Master, and breaking down social barriers was not her original goal, now she does both. “I can say this is one of my most grateful accomplishments.” The idea of working at sea can be daunting, but it has its benefits. “I try to maximize my time while I am at work, so when I’m home, I am fully dedicated to my family.”
The life of a mariner is goal-orientated; therefore, discipline and structure are essential to leadership. Josephs said, "As a female leader, it’s important to establish and communicate professional and personal boundaries. “Work expectations are the same for everyone; we all have the same goals; we are a team.” Leadership requires dedication, but it is also crucial to find balance. In her down time, she plays the ukulele and works on jigsaw puzzles, “I try to complete one big jigsaw before leaving each ship."
Currently, she works on an Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) designed to transport 600 short tons of cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35-knots on moderate swells. An EPF can operate in shallow water and has a flight deck for helicopters, making them an asset in a wide range of operations. According to Josephs, EPF’s have a smaller crew compared to the standard Combat Logistics Force or (CLF) ships. “It’s a lot more of a team effort working with smaller crews.” Teamwork and camaraderie are essential for living and working in this environment.
A career with MSC is "a floating building with one of the best office views and the opportunity to interact with different people all over the world.” One final note, Josephs is dedicated to a full-service maritime career with MSC. Her advice to anyone interested in a life at sea “establish and maintain your goals, your vision, and your purpose, and everything else will follow."