As the nation prepares to observe the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a 2007 Hillsboro High School graduate and Hillsboro native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of three ships named in honor of the victims and heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Muzyka is an electronics technician aboard USS Arlington, named for the county of Arlington, Va., to honor the first responders and the 184 victims who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
An electronics technician is responsible for repairing and maintaining all electronic equipment used for navigation as well as detecting and tracking contacts.
USS Arlington, one of the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious ships, is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions, ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts, Navy officials said.
Homeported in Norfolk, Va., USS Arlington is longer than two football fields at 684 feet, is 105 feet wide and weighs more than 24,000 tons. It has four diesel engines that can push the ship through the water in excess of 26 mph.
Serving in the Navy and aboard Arlington, Muzyka is constantly learning how to be the best leader, sailor and person possible by handling numerous responsibilities, meeting deadlines and forging lasting professional relationships.
“My job is hands-on,” Muzyka said. “It keeps me engaged.”
Arlington has a museum onboard that displays steel taken from the wreckage at the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks.
Its motto of “Strength, Honor, Fortitude” embodies the strength and determination of the people of the United States: to recover, rally and take the fight to the enemy, and honor the memory of those who were affected by the attacks.
According to Navy officials, USS Arlington forges an enduring alliance between the people of Arlington, the Pentagon, the ship and the crew.
“The Arlington is my first ship and I pre-commissioned it,” Muzyka said. “I have an interesting connection with this ship.”
More than 400 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the engines.
An additional 700 Marines can be embarked. Arlington is capable of transporting the Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and landing craft.
“Arlington just completed a deployment that has been both personally and professionally rewarding for all of the sailors and Marines aboard the ship,” said Capt. Sean Bailey, commanding officer of USS Arlington.
“Despite the challenges of being deployed far from home for seven months, the level of dedication and commitment to professional execution of our mission never wavered.
“Arlington’s Maiden Deployment marks the opening chapter in what I’m positive will be a long and outstanding legacy of naval excellence.”
USS Arlington is one of nine San Antonio-class ships, which will replace more than 41 ships providing the Navy and Marine Corps with modern sea-based platforms.
The ship is an Amphibious Transport Dock, and according to the Navy, it is designed to embark, transport and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.
These ships support amphibious assaults, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups.
Because of their capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice as well.
“Serving in the Navy has been my whole life,” Muzyka. “It got me where I am today and definitely improved my life from yesterday.”