By Lt. Philip Fortnam, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs
ROTA, SPAIN – A 2001 South Broward High School graduate and Hollywood, Fla. native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Ross.
Petty Officer Second Class Gina Etienne is an electronics technician aboard the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer operating out of Rota, Spain. Ross is one of four destroyers’ home ported in Rota.
“As a Navy electronics technician I keep the electronic equipment running so we can stay in the fight,” said Etienne. “I work on the ship’s radar system and everything electronic on the ship.”
Commissioned in June of 1997, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, Ross, measures approximately 500 feet and is powered by four gas turbines that allow the destroyer to achieve over 30 mph in open seas. It was named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Donald K. Ross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the at-tack on Pearl Harbor.
This ship has been fitted with the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability that enables the ship to conduct long-range surveillance, tracking, and engagement of short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
According to Navy officials, destroyers are tactical multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, as well as humanitarian assistance. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required war-fighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any tasking overseas.
Assigned to U.S. 6th Fleet, sailors are on watch throughout the European region and are important assets supporting the European Phased Adaptive Approach to enhance the security of that area of the world from ballistic missile threats originating in the Middle East.
“The Navy has been great to me,” said Etienne. “I love travel. It’s great benefit. I’m loving Spain so far and can’t wait to explore the rest of Europe.”
In addition to Ross, three other BMD capable ships are forwarded deployed in Rota: USS Porter, USS Carney and USS Donald Cook. Having four destroyers based in Rota gives the U.S. 6th Fleet flexibility to send these ships to a variety of locations for a range of missions, while at the same time providing a large umbrella of protection for European allies.
Approximately 30 officers and 300 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and hand-ling weaponry.
“I’m enjoying the camaraderie and the people aboard the ship,” said Etienne. “I’m new to the ship and everyone from top to bottom is very helpful. There is a definite closeness on this ship.”
Challenging living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, Navy officials explained. The crew is highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Etienne explained that she and other Ross sailors know they are part of a legacy that will be last beyond their life-times.
“By serving in the Navy, I’m serving my country and paying it forward to the next generation of Americans,” said Etienne.