Brooklyn native Petty Officer Second Class Raul Neri, a 2007 graduate of Williamsburg’s Harry Van Arsdale High School, is serving as part of the United States Navy’s pre-commissioning unit for the future Arleigh Burke–class destroyer, USS Thomas Hudner DDG 116.
Neri is a gas-turbine-systems technician assigned to DDG 116 in Bath, Maine. As such, he is responsible for maintaining and operating engines that provide propulsion for the ship.
“I like getting dirty and working with my hands,” said Neri. “With my job I get to do that.”
And the Kings County son said lessons he learned from his hometown have served him well in his military service.
“Growing up in Brooklyn, I got used to dealing with different people. My parents also taught me to respect authority,” Neri said. “Those things help me now.”
Each member of the ship’s 300-plus crew has a job that is important to the smooth operation of the vessel, including such specific tasks as weapon-handling and navigation, and Neri said one of his proudest accomplishments as a serviceman was staying up all night to fix a key piece of equipment when he was a new crew member on another ship.
“It felt good. I got an award. I felt part of the team and earned respect,” he said.
Close living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, according to Navy officials, who said it is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
USS Hudner DDG 116 is currently undergoing tests and trials in preparation for delivery to the Navy from shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. Arleigh Burke–class destroyers measure approximately 500-feet long, and are powered by four gas turbines that allow the ship to achieve more than 30 miles-per hour in open seas.
Destroyers are tactical multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and ballistic-missile defense, as well as humanitarian assistance. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required war-fighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute a variety of missions.
“Thomas J. Hudner Jr., a naval aviator who retired as a captain, received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for displaying uncommon valor during an attack on his element leader, the first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, Ensign Jesse L. Brown,” said Commander Nathan W. Scherry, the commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit for USS Thomas Hudner. “On 07 May 2012, Secretary Mabus announced that DDG 116 will be named in Captain Hudner’s honor. Today, as the Navy’s finest 300 Sailors crew [board] the 66th Arleigh Burke–class destroyer, they do so with a tremendous amount of honor, pride, and sense of duty. We are extremely honored to be able to carry Captain Hudner’s values and legacy forward so that they are never forgotten. We are proud to be able to carry out our missions in defense of our country’s freedom and values, and humbled to be part of the Hudner family.”
And as members of one of the Navy’s newest ships, Neri said he and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“I’m able to set an example for my younger siblings and I’m able to contribute to the security of my country by serving in the Navy,” he said.