ROTA, Spain – A native of Broomes Island, Maryland, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain. Donald Cook is currently on her 11th patrol of the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa, operating in the East Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Bret Halterman, a 2017 Calvert High School graduate, joined the Navy four years ago.
“Working day-to-day onboard USS Donald Cook has taught me so much,” said Halterman. “After three years onboard, I’ve learned everything from firefighting, to running a trash room and to maintaining and supervising multiple fully operational networks. At the end of the day, it’s just good to know I’m doing something that benefits not just me, but my family and friends back home.”
Today, Halterman serves aboard a ship with more than 300 other sailors, who make up the ship’s crew. Their jobs are highly specialized and range from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines along with a multitude of other assignments that keep the ship mission-ready at all times. USS Donald Cook is named after U.S. Marine Corps Col. Donald Cook, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his selfless acts as a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War. Cook shared food and medicine with his fellow prisoners, despite his own deteriorating health. USS Donald Cook remembers his legacy by flying a POW flag at all times. According to Navy officials, guided-missile destroyers are capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required warfighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any tasking at sea.
Donald Cook is one of four destroyers based in Rota, Spain, assigned to Commander, Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.
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.
According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, four priorities will focus efforts on sailors, readiness, capabilities, and capacity.
“For 245 years, in both calm and rough water, our Navy has stood the watch to protect the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas, and defend our way of life,” said Gilday. “The decisions and investments we make this decade will set the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century. We can accept nothing less than success.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Halterman, 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.
“I joined the Navy to move out of my hometown, to see other cultures and other countries, and to make a difference with my life,” added Halterman. “Even after five deployments and visiting 18 countries, I still feel like there’s so much more about other countries that I don’t know and that I can’t wait to learn. That’s what I think it means to serve in the Navy – to learn from others and teach what you’ve learned.”