An Ocean Away, Smithfield Native Serves In US Navy, Lives in Europe, Supports NATO Mission

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian T. Glunt, Navy Office of Community Outreach
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Rae Moreno

Rota, Spain –  A 2014 Smithfield Selma High School graduate and Smithfield, North Carolina, native is serving our country in the Navy, living on the coast of Spain, and participating in a critical NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) mission while assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanessa Rodriquez is a culinary specialist aboard one of the four advanced warships forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, a small village on the country’s southwest coast 65 miles south of the city of Seville.

A Navy culinary specialist is responsible for the morale of the crew by providing three healthy and tasty meals a day. They also inventory and order supplies for the ship’s galley.

Rodriquez credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Smithfield.

“I learned hospitality and patience growing up in a very southern atmosphere, which help me well in my job,” said Rodriquez.

These four destroyers are forward-deployed in Rota to fulfill the United States’ phased commitment to NATO BMD while also carrying out a wide range of missions to support the security of Europe.

According to the NATO website, many countries have, or are trying to develop ballistic missiles. The ability to acquire these capabilities does not necessarily mean there is an immediate intent to attack NATO, but that the alliance has a responsibility to take any possible threat into account as part of its core task of collective defense.

U.S. Navy Aegis ballistic missile defense provides scalability, flexibility and mobility. These systems are equally beneficial to U.S. assets, allies and regional partners in all areas of the world. Positioning four ballistic missile defense ships in Spain provides an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces, friends and allies while contributing to a broader defense of the United States.

Guided-missile destroyers are 510 feet long warships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. The ships are armed with tomahawk cruise missiles, advanced gun systems, close-in gun systems and long-range missiles to counter the threat to friendly forces posed by manned aircraft, anti-ship, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles.

Destroyers are deployed globally and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups or amphibious readiness groups. Their presence helps the Navy control the sea. Sea control is the necessity for everything the Navy does. The Navy cannot project power, secure the commons, deter aggression, or assure allies without the ability to control the seas when and where desired.

The ship is named after Adm. Robert Bostwick Carney, who served as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower administration.

“We have an outstanding team here and I am honored to lead one of the finest, most capable crews in the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Tyson Young, commanding officer of USS Carney. “Their continued efforts keep us as an integral part of U.S. 6th Fleet’s presence in the region.”

While serving in the Navy may present many challenges, Rodriquez has found many great rewards.

Rodriquez is proud of earning her Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin, which takes a lot of time and commitment to obtain.

“I am the first of my family to have served in the military,” said Rodriquez. “I believe I am a good role model back home because they don’t know many service members.”

Unique experiences build strong fellowship among the crew of more than 300 women and men aboard Carney. Their hard work and professionalism are a testament to the namesake’s dedication and the ship’s motto, “Resolute, Committed, Successful.” The crew is motivated, and can quickly adapt to changing conditions, according to Navy officials. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills. Serving aboard a guided-missile destroyer instills accountability and toughness and fosters initiative and integrity.

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

“The higher you move up, the more responsibility is earned, especially in the culinary specialist rating. I am proud of the leader I’m becoming,” said Rodriquez. “I’m lucky to be in Spain and enjoy the people and culture. I’ve traveled to 12 different countries since I’ve been here.”