By Lt. Courtney Prizer, Navy Office of Community Outreach
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – A 2011 Burlington Edison High School graduate, 2015 Skagit Valley Community College graduate and Dupont, Washington, native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the guided-missile destroyer, USS Chung-Hoon.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Zabelka works as a Navy fire controlman AEGIS aboard the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer operating out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Zabelka credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Dupont.
“My hometown taught me that the only way anything will get done is with hard work,” said Zabelka.
Chung-Hoon measures approximately 500 feet and is powered by four gas turbines that allow the destroyer to achieve more than 30 mph in open seas.
Approximately 30 officers and 300 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from maintaining engines and handling weaponry to washing dishes and preparing meals.
As a Navy fire controlman AEGIS, Zabelka is responsible for operating specialized computers to control combat and weapons systems.
According to Navy officials, destroyers are tactical multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, as well as humanitarian assistance. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required war-fighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any tasking overseas.
Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means Zabelka is serving in a part of the world taking on a new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Zabelka, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Zabelka is honored to carry on that family tradition.
“A lot of people in my family served in the military, and I am proud of all of them for the sacrifices they made for their country,” said Zabelka.
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Zabelka is most proud of completing his first deployment to the Middle East.
“I went to the Middle East for a seven month deployment, and I got to see countries and places that most people never get to see,” said Zabelka.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Zabelka and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“I love the beaches and hiking in Hawaii. There is always something new to find every time I walk around,” added Zabelka. “Serving in the Navy has given me opportunities to travel the world, see new things and experience new cultures.”