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Hernandezplata serves on USS Oscar Austin destroyer

NORFOLK, VA. – Jessica Hernandezplata, a native of Harvest, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Oscar Austin.

Hernandezplata graduated from East Limestone High School in 2015.

Seaman Hernandezplata is an operations specialist aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, which operates out of Norfolk, Va.

A Navy operations specialist is responsible for maintaining situational awareness of all ships, airplanes and submarines in the area, along with controlling the ship’s radar and occasionally Navy aircraft in the vicinity.

“There are a lot of cool things about my job,” Hernandezplata said. “I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot of things I never would have done.”

Commissioned in August 2000, USS Oscar Austin measures approximately 500 feet. Four gas turbines power the destroyer and allow speeds of 30 mph in open seas.

Destroyers are tactical surface combatants, designed for multiple missions. The vessels can conduct anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, along with humanitarian assistance. Fast, maneuverable and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required warfighting expertise and operational flexibility.

“We pride ourselves on being the best destroyer in the fleet and every sailor onboard contributes to making Oscar Austin ‘Ready to Fight,’” Commander Janice Smith said.

With a crew of more than 300 sailors, jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the destroyer running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.

“You get to meet people from different places. You meet people from your own hometown or your own state that you never would have known,” Hernandezplata said.

Challenging living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, Navy officials said. The crew is highly motivated, quickly adapting to changing conditions. Their busy lives include specialized work, watches and drills.

“Serving in the Navy to me means honoring your country, helping your family and helping others,” Hernandezplata said.

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