Petty Officer 1st Class Federico Avila stands onboard the USS Preble, where he works as a postal clerk.
“I am a mailman,” said Avila. “I sort incoming mail and get it to the servicemembers. I also collect outgoing mail, sell stamps and money orders.”
Avila graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1989 and joined the Navy in 1994. He is married to Cynthia Ornales from Williams and they have two children.
“I joined the Navy to see the world, and to be able to have the opportunity to take advantage of the great college benefits the Navy has to offer,” said Avila.
This is the ship’s first deployment since it’s commissioning November 2002. Since that time the ship has trained in port and underway off the coast of California in preparation for this deployment. Sailors onboard are enthused and thrilled to support the ship’s first voyage.
“I am thrilled about making this deployment,” said Avila. “I am the only postal clerk on board so I’ll have enough work to keep me busy which will make the time go by much quicker on this deployment.”
Preble is one of seven ships in the flotilla known as Expeditionary Strike Group 3. An expeditionary strike group is made up of three large amphibious ships, three small combatants, and a submarine. The amphibious ships carry troops to combat zones, while the submarine keeps watch over the strike group, ready to protect it from threatening ships. Preble is one of the small combatants which carries much more firepower and can move much faster than the amphibious ships. The small ships escort their larger companions through hostile or dangerous waters.
ESG 3 includes USS Belleau Wood, USS Denver, USS Comstock, USS Preble, USS Hopper, USS Mobile Bay, and one submarine, USS Charlotte. According to Brig. Gen. Medina, the first Marine Corps General to command an ESG, feels that ESG3’s deployment provides an essential element to the Navy’s mission.
“Expeditionary Strike Group supports the Department of the Navy’s vision to align, organize, integrate, and transform to meet the challenges that lay ahead,” said Medina. “The ESG brings enhanced power projection, defensive protection and operational independence afforded by the freedom to maneuver on the sea.”
Preble is 509 feet long and 59 feet high and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weaponry used to support the ship and defend the sea-lanes. The ship is capable of fulfilling multi-mission duties in support of carrier strike groups and surface action groups including air, surface, and undersea warfare.
In addition to Preble’s current mission of supporting and defending the war on terrorism, Preble’s crew is also committed to providing humanitarian and non-combatant evacuation operations. Humanitarian operations are also a vital mission that builds friendly and cooperative relations with foreign countries.
Prior to serving on Preble, Avila was attached to the amphibious assault ship USS Mount Vernon. While assigned to the assault ship Avila expanded his knowledge of the postal rating through on-the-job training and knowledge that was passed on to him from the fellow postal staff. On the amphibious ship, while underway, Avila assisted and supported a crew of over 400 sailors and 400 Marines. Serving on the amphibious ship exposed Avila to a wide variety of unique situations within the postal field. This allowed Avila to become familiar with all aspects of the job. Now that he is attached to Preble, which has 500 members, his days still continue to be strenuous because he is the only postal clerk. Having gained valuable expertise while aboard Mount Vernon, Avila knows now that he is capable of taking on any challenge that may arise on Preble. Besides expanding his skills and experience, his tour aboard Mount Vernon also gave Avila the opportunity to visit many countries around the world.
“This will be my third deployment,” said Avila. “I am ready to give my support to the ship’s mission.”
Avila commented that although he has deployed before on Mount Vernon, he is looking forward to the new adventures and challenges this deployment will bring. He is eager to travel around the world once again to experience different lifestyles and cultures.
As the Navy continues to support the war on terrorism sailors like Avila are ready and willing to do their part.
(Lancaster is a journalist and Woods is a photographer assigned to the Public Affairs Center in San Diego.)