The coronavirus pandemic has caused countless cancellations and delays in operations, though that hasn’t slowed down the efforts of the U.S. Navy.
Armed services members throughout the world continue to focus on rebuilding America’s military readiness, strengthening the country’s alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy. Among those working on behalf of the red, white and blue in remote locations across the globe is Yeoman 2nd Class Petty Officer Vanessa Hernandez, a 1996 graduate of Dos Pueblos High School and a native of Santa Barbara.
She serves as the executive assistant to the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, a Navy base located in the Horn of Africa which is the only enduring U.S. military base on the continent of Africa.
Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, provides, operates and sustains services in support of combat readiness and security of ships, aircraft, detachments and personnel for regional and combatant command requirements. The work provides stability for the region and enables operations, all while fostering positive relations between the U.S. and African nations.
According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world, as more than 70% of the Earth is covered by water and 90% of all trade travels by sea.
“Camp Lemonnier is a key Navy base and a vital asset to the United States as our location in the Horn of Africa overlooks the world’s fourth busiest waterway,” said Capt. Ken Crowe, commanding officer of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. “A mission as critical as ours comes with a lot of responsibilities and challenges, but our military members and civilians work hard. I’m honored to serve alongside each and every one of them, including Petty Officer Hernandez.”
The base supports approximately 4,000 U.S., joint and allied forces military and civilian personnel and U.S. Department of Defense contractors. Additionally, the base provides employment for approximately 1,000 local and third country nation workers.
Petty Officer Hernandez has a unique perspective in her role, as she is able to see the direct results of some of the work conducting on the base.
“What I enjoy most about my current job are the daily challenges,” Petty Officer Hernandez told the News-Press. “I get to work in a fast-paced environment. As the Executive Assistant for our command leadership, a role that is mostly reserved for a more senior person, I am able to see how things are put into action on the base.”
Petty Officer Hernandez said her favorite part about being in the Navy is being able to travel around the world and interact with people of nearly every background.
“I am proud to say I was able to do something significant in life by serving my country,” she said.
Petty Officer Hernandez credits her upbringing on the relaxing South Coast, which she said allows her to stay calm during the most stressful situations. Although she is the first member of her family to join the military, she also pointed to the influence of her mother, which she said has helped her conquer any challenge she has faced.
“My mom was tough and taught me to stay tough and how to be able to deal with and accept any situation that comes along,” she said.
Just as the pandemic has caused people to alter or change their daily routines, Petty Officer Hernandez said many of her “little idiosyncratic luxuries” such as going to the gym or social gatherings have been altered or removed from her daily life due to the pandemic. Navy members are also being required to practice social distancing, though many have tried to use this to their advantage.
“On a positive note, due to social distancing and facility closures around base, people are volunteering their time to help and keep up with some of our needs here on the base,” she said.
Petty Officer Hernandez formerly served as a cryptologic technician, where she served as an expert in intercepting signals. Some of her responsibilities included analyzing and reporting on communication signals using computers or other equipment, exploiting signals of interest to identify, locate and report threats and providing tactical intelligence and guidance to various units.
“It was a very interesting job and I knew I was helping the Navy in a big way,” she said.
Moving forward, she said she wants to continue on to another mobilization in a different part of the world to gain more experience as a yeoman and enjoy other cultures while serving her country.