An Ocean Away, Alexandria Native Serves in U.S. Navy, Lives in Europe, Supports NATO Mission

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Rae Moreno

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian T. Glunt, Navy Office of Community Outreach

ROTA, Spain – A 1995 Hayfield Secondary School and 2000 Virginia Tech graduate and Alexandria, Virginia, 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 Donald Cook.

Cmdr. Kelley Jones is an executive officer 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 executive officer is responsible for being the chief operating officer of a 1.8 billion dollar national asset responsible for providing global crisis response options directly to the president of the United States.

Jones credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Alexandria.

“Growing up, I learned not to allow failure or setbacks to define me,” said Jones. “That persistence and drive to do something that impacts my community is what I carried into my Navy career.”

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.

 

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (May 23, 2016) USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) transits the Mediterranean Sea. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mat Murch/Released)160523-N-TC720-274
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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 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.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Jones, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Jones is honored to carry on that family tradition.

“My dad served in the Marine Corps,” said Jones. “He was a direct influence on why I wanted to join. The military life is what I grew up with so it was a very easy decision to join.”

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 U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Jones and other USS Donald Cook sailors know they are a part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“My experiences throughout my 18 years of service has made me able to lead better. I’ve grown a lot of patience with sailors and it has ultimately made me a better person through my commitment through service,” said Jones. “The mission has been my favorite part of serving in Spain. Commander, U.S. Navy 6th Fleet’s mission has been the best in the Navy. Anytime we’re on patrol we are executing our mission.”