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Roanoke Native Participates in Large Scale Exercise Aboard U.S. Navy Warship

A Roanoke, Virginia, native is participating in the Large-Scale Exercise (LSE 2021) aboard USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), a U.S. Navy warship that transports and launches Marines from sea to shore as part of amphibious assault operations.

Ensign Zachary Preu, a 2019 Liberty University graduate, joined the Navy over one year ago. “I’m fourth-generation Navy so you could say they have something for us,” said Preu. “I joined to travel and to be challenged both on the job and as a person. I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle, and nowhere on this earth at my age can you have such an amazing job with such a huge impact.”

Zachary Preu / Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vanessa C. Behrend

According to Preu, the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Roanoke. “My hometown definitely taught me about working hard and to never quit while chasing your goals,” said Preu. “I’ve been working since I was 14, and at every job I had role models that pushed me to be better.”

LSE 2021 demonstrates the Navy’s ability to employ precise, lethal, and overwhelming force globally across three naval component commands, five numbered fleets, and 17 time zones. LSE 2021 merges live and synthetic training capabilities to create an intense, robust training environment. It connects high-fidelity training and real-world operations, to build knowledge and skills needed in today’s complex, multi-domain, and contested environment.

“During Large Scale Exercise 21, USS Whidbey Island demonstrated enhanced medical capabilities while seamlessly integrating our Fleet Surgical Team,” said commanding officer of USS Whidbey Island, Cmdr. Kristel Anne O’Canas. This critical mission set will allow a dynamic force employment in the Surface Fleet by expanding medical care capacity across various surface combatants.”

Whidbey Island is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment in support of amphibious operations including landings via Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores.

Homeported in Little Creek, Virginia, Whidbey Island is longer than two football fields at 610 feet. The ship is 84 feet wide and weighs more than 16,000 tons. It has four diesel engines that can push the ship through the water in excess of 25 mph.

Serving in the Navy means Preu 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.

“The Navy is so much bigger than just national defense,” said Preu. “Our daily jobs and what we do has an impact on the entire world both in protecting the freedom of the seas and the international trade that comes with it, along with being ready at every moment to respond to national defense and humanitarian aid.”

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Preu as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“Serving in the Navy to me means about being a part of something so much bigger than myself,” added Preu. “We all join for similar reasons; serving, a steady paycheck, making a difference; and we all have differences that make us stronger together. The Navy does a phenomenal job of bringing us together and impacting the world in a way I never thought possible.”

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