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Queens Native Serves aboard a Floating Airport at Sea

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Bill Steele, Navy Office of Community Outreach

A Queens, New York, native and 2011 Pan American International High School graduate is serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, a floating airport at sea.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Wilber Pena is an operations specialist serving aboard the carrier.

A Navy operations specialist is responsible for identifying and tracking air, surface and subsurface contacts.

“My job is to maintain the flow of information between ships and aircraft,” said Pena.

Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the crew of John C. Stennis, with an additional 2,000 sailors assigned to the ship’s embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 9.

Named in honor of former Senator John C. Stennis from Mississippi, the carrier is longer than three football fields, measuring nearly 1,100 feet. The ship, a true floating city, weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 252 feet wide.

When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.

Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft.

Pena combines the lessons learned from both the Navy and Queens to take personal responsibility in performing assigned tasks and leading others.

“Living in Queens brings a mixture of different ideas, people, languages,” Pena said. “It’s helped me to think outside the box, it’s made me more approachable, and being able to deal with different types of people.”

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

“Military service is about sacrifice, missing family, missing holidays, missing birthdays,” Pena. “But this is what we sign up for in order to serve our country.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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