By Dusty Good, Navy Office of Community Outreach

(Mayport, Fla.) – A 2011 Apopka High School graduate provides key support as part of combat operations aboard the USS Saint Louis, stationed at Naval Station Mayport in Florida.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Penni Hilson serves as an operations specialist responsible for tracking and plotting foreign objects to ensure the mission is accomplished.

Hilson credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned at Apopka High School.“I learned patience growing up,” said Hilson. “If I didn’t have it I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

2011 Apopka grad and Petty Officer 2nd Class Penni Hilson

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused- platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.

The ship’s technological benefits allow for swapping mission packages quickly, meaning sailors can support multiple missions, such as surface warfare, mine warfare, or anti-submarine warfare. Designed to defeat threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines, and fast surface craft, littoral combat ships are a bold departure from traditional Navy shipbuilding programs. The LCS sustainment strategy was developed to take into account the unique design and manning of LCS and its associated mission modules.According to Navy officials, the path to becoming an LCS sailor is a long one. Following an 18-month training pipeline, sailors have to qualify on a simulator that is nearly identical to the ship. This intense and realistic training pipeline allows sailors to execute their roles and responsibilities immediately upon stepping onboard.

Hilson is now a part of a long-standing tradition of serving in the Navy our nation needs.

“My brother, dad, grandfather, and husband have all served in the military; it’s pretty much a family tradition,” said Hilson.

Hilson is part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.

“I am very proud of the training and helping junior sailors,” said Hilson. “During the installation flooding, I was able to coordinate with my junior sailors to secure our important documents so that they did not get ruined. Then I coordinated with local emergency responders in the recovery effort.”

Hilson is playing an important part 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.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon capital assets, Hilson and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

Serving in the Navy, Hilson is learning about being a more respectable leader, sailor, and person through handling numerous responsibilities.

“Serving in the Navy means I am sacrificing daily comforts to ensure the mission gets done,” said Hilson.

Editor’s Note: Photo of Petty Officer 2nd Class Hilson by Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward 

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