ROTA, Spain – A 2016 Central Valley High School graduate and Ceres native is serving his 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 Donald Cook.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Diego Andrade is a sonar technician (surface) 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 sonar technician is responsible for detecting, tracking and classifying underwater contacts and ensuring safe navigation for the ship.
Andrade credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in the Ceres area.
“Growing up I was always around family,” said Andrade. “They have taught me to always give it my all, no matter what the task is. They also taught me to be patient. Being new to this command, being motivated and patient has really helped me out.”
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.
Andrade’s ship is named after Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam prisoner of war, U.S. Marine Corps Col. Donald G. Cook.
“Donald Cook’s crew is second to none in competency, resiliency and enthusiasm,” said Cmdr. Matthew J. Powel, commanding officer of USS Donald Cook. “This team comes in to work every day ready to accomplish the mission in one of the most demanding sea duty schedules the Navy has to offer and I couldn’t be more proud to be their captain.”
While serving in the Navy may present many challenges, Andrade has found many great rewards.
Andrade is proud of earning successfully completing sonar technician “A” school.
The hard work and professionalism of more than 300 women and men aboard Donald Cook are a testament to the namesake’s dedication and the ship’s motto, “Faith Without Fear.”
Unique experiences build strong fellowship among the crew of more than 300 women and men aboard USS Donald Cook. Their hard work and professionalism are a testament to the namesake’s dedication and the ship’s motto, “Faith Without Fear.” 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 Navy’s most relied upon assets, Andrade and fellow sailors know they are a part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy, you learn to grow up really quick. You see that you want to do the best that you can because your actions are a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Andrade. “Serving in Spain is awesome. This is my first time being overseas and so far I’m really liking it. The locals are really nice and the food is amazing.”