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Donegal Grad Serves on Guided Missile Cruiser in Hawaii

A Mount Joy native and 2014 Donegal High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the guided-missile cruiser, USS Port Royal.

Ensign Rachel LaBuda has served in the Navy for five years and is a U.S. Navy surface warfare officer aboard guided-missile cruiser operating out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

As a Navy surface warfare officer, LaBuda is responsible for driving warships and ensuring they are properly maintained so the ship is ready to deploy around the world.

LaBuda credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Mount Joy.

“I learned to have a positive attitude even in challenging situations and to inspire others to be optimistic as well,” said LaBuda.

Approximately 300 men and women serve aboard the ship. According to Navy officials, their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly. They do everything from maintaining gas turbine engines and operating the highly sophisticated Aegis weapons system to driving the ship and operating small boats.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, LaBuda is most proud of spending four months with the Chilean Navy on their tall ship learning how to sail and visiting different countries in Latin America in 2018.

“This was an experience of a lifetime,” said LaBuda.

A Navy cruiser is a multimission ship that can operate independently or as part of a larger group of ships at sea Navy officials explained. The ship is equipped with a vertical launching system, tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns and a phalanx close-in weapons systems.

Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means LaBuda 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.”

The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades. The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies.Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for LaBuda, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. LaBuda is honored to carry on that family tradition.

“My father was a Navy pilot and is my biggest role model,” said LaBuda. “Joining the Navy was my own decision, but myfather is my inspiration to be the best leaderI can be and enjoy all

the amazing opportunities I have.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, LaBuda 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.

“Serving in the Navy is a way to have a positive influence on those I lead and work with, as well as protecting the freedoms I have enjoyed my whole life due to the sacrifices of those who served before me,” added LaBuda.

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