ROTA, Spain — A 2006 Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School graduate and Kankakee native is serving the country in the Navy, living on the coast of Spain, and participating in a critical NATO ballistic missile defense mission while assigned to the guided-missile destroyer the USS Donald Cook.
Petty Officer 1st Class Gerri Ripple is a gas turbine systems technician (electrical) aboard one of the four advanced warships forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, a small village on the country’s southwest coast, 65 miles south of the city of Seville.
A Navy gas turbine systems technician (electrical) is responsible for the fuel for the ship’s engines, lubricating oils and all test equipment onboard.
Ripple credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Kankakee.
“I’ve learned the value of hard work,” said Ripple. “I grew up not having much, so the opportunity to see everything I’ve worked for as the result of all my hard work and dedication has been rewarding.”
These four destroyers are forward-deployed in Rota to fulfill the United States’ phased commitment to NATO BMD while also carrying out a wide range of missions to support the security of Europe.
The ship is named after Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam prisoner of war, U.S. Marine Corps Col. Donald G. Cook.
“Donald Cook’s crew is second to none in competency, resiliency and enthusiasm,” said Cmdr. Matthew J. Powel, commanding officer of the USS Donald Cook. “This team comes in to work every day ready to accomplish the mission in one of the most demanding sea duty schedules the Navy has to offer, and I couldn’t be more proud to be their captain.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Ripple, who has military ties with family members who previously have served. Ripple is honored to carry on that family tradition.
“I have two uncles who served, one in the Air Force and another in the Army in the 82nd Airborne during Desert Storm,” said Ripple. “However, I made the decision to join the Navy on my own.”
While serving in the Navy might present many challenges, Ripple has found many great rewards.
Ripple is proud of earning a meritorious advancement to E-5 in 2011 based on her hard work and dedication.
Unique experiences build strong fellowship among the crew of more than 300 women and men aboard the USS Donald Cook. Their hard work and professionalism are a testament to the namesake’s dedication and the ship’s motto, “Faith Without Fear.” The crew is motivated, and can adapt quickly to changing conditions, according to Navy officials. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills. Serving aboard a guided-missile destroyer instills accountability and toughness and fosters initiative and integrity.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Ripple and other USS Donald Cook sailors know they are a part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, providing the Navy with what the nation needs.
“The Navy has helped me to understand that a little bit goes a long way,” said Ripple. “I enjoy being in Spain. So far, my favorite part has been the food — tapas, cheese and the sangria! I also appreciate the different countries that we have visited during our port calls, which most of the Navy don’t have the chance to see.”