By Electa Berassa

A 2005 Durant High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a crew working aboard one of the country’s multi-mission combat ships. Lieutenant Junior Grade Willie Parker, a first protection officer, is serving aboard the San Diego-based guided missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76), which returned in October 2013 from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. While deployed, the ship and its crew of more than 250 sailors conducted operations with the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group and took part in a number of exercises, theater security cooperation events and maritime presence operations with partner nations.

“I am continually grateful for the effort my crew displayed during deployment and after our return to San Diego. The dedication and professionalism they put forth daily reaffirms their commitment to their country and the naval service,” said Cmdr. Nicole Shue, commanding officer of Higgins.

As a 27-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Parker is learning about himself as a sailor and a person. He is also getting a firsthand look at the multi-mission ships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. Destroyers can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and underway replenishment groups. The USS Higgins is 505 ft. long and 59 ft. wide and weighs nearly 8,700 tons. Twin gas turbine engines push the ship through the water at more than 30 mph.

“I’ve developed my confidence,” said Parker. “I can rely on myself and also gather humbleness in seeking help when I need it.”

Fast, maneuverable and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required war-fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute multi-mission evolutions such as surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-air warfare.

As a member of one of the most versatile combat ships, Parker and other Higgins sailors know they are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

Parker said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy, and serving aboard a ship is something he never expected to be doing just a couple years ago.

“It’s been rewarding,” said Parker. “You learn take the good with the bad. The people you work with in the Navy are the best qualified in the world and can take that expertise to help them in civilian life.”


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