Peoria native serves aboard warship half a world away

Petty Officer 3rd Class Dominic Gonzales is a 2015 graduate of Centennial High School. (Photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Dominic Gonzales, a native of Peoria, wanted to join the Navy to travel and see the world.

Now, three years later and half a world away, Gonzales serves aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.

“Being stationed here is fun and busy, but it is kind of tough at times so it’s good to know you have friends to help you out,” he said.

Gonzales, a 2015 graduate of Centennial High School, is an electronics technician aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of three cruisers forward-deployed to the region.

“I work on exterior communications, like radios, and make sure they are up and running, and I make sure we have all of our circuits up,” he said.

Gonzales credits success in the Navy to lessons learned in Peoria.

“I learned from my dad to be a man of my word,” he said. “If you say you’re going to do something, follow through and do it; consistency is key. I feel like people can depend on me to get the job done right; it’s a good feeling.”

U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50% of the world’s population with between 50 to 70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and approximately 20,000 sailors.

“Being able to live and experience Japan is cool,” Gonzales said. “We are always visiting new countries, so I’m doing what I wanted to do and that is travel.”

With more than 50% of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy’s presence in Yokosuka is part of that longstanding commitment.

“The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It’s not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander for U.S. 7th Fleet. “It is, and will continue to be, our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who’ve made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference.”

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

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

Serving in the Navy means Gonzales is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water; 80% of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90% of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career. Gonzales is most proud of receiving the Junior Sailor of the Quarter award.

“I was recognized for all the hard work I did to represent the department,” he said. “There was some stiff competition so I didn’t think I was going to get it, so it was pretty cool.”

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

“It’s an honor to serve my country and to protect the people back home,” he said.