A 2004 Miami Southridge High School graduate and Miami native is serving as part of the Pre-Commissioning Unit for the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
Petty Officer Second Class Cesar Bernal is a gas turbine systems technician (mechanical) assigned to DDG 116 in Bath, ME. As a gas turbine systems technician (mechanical) Bernal is responsible for maintenance and repairs relating to the ship’s power plant.
“Working with my hands is what I like to do,” Bernal said.
DDG 116 currently is undergoing tests and trials in preparation for delivery to the U.S. 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 over 30 mph 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 warfighting 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 Cmdr. Nathan W. Scherry, commanding officer, PCU 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 the 66th Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer, they do so with a tremendous amount of honor, pride, and sense of duty,” Cmdr. Scherry said. “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.”
Bernal has carried lessons learned from his hometown into his military service.
“I have been able to apply the lessons I learned growing up in Miami to communicate with people and sailors from around the world,” Bernal said. “Miami is a very diverse city.”
With a crew of over 300 Sailors, each crew member’s job is important to the smooth operation of the ship. The jobs range from weapon handling to navigation.
“I am the first in my family to serve in the military,” he said. “Maybe I start something.”
Bernal said his proudest accomplishment in the Navy is providing humanitarian relief after a 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
“We provided food and water and electricity to the people. It made me feel good to help people who were really in need.”
Close living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, Navy officials explained. The crew is highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s newest ships, Bernal and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“The Navy offers me a sense of pride knowing that I represent my city, my state, and my country around the world,” Bernal said.
The construction of the ship is over 98 percent complete. The ship is scheduled for commissioning in late 2018 in Boston, MA. For more information about the commissioning, visit www.usshudnerddg116.org.