MAYPORT, Fla. — A 2015 Milton High School graduate and Milton, Florida, native provides key support as part of combat operations aboard USS Philippine Sea.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Holder is a Navy gunner’s mate aboard the guided-missile cruiser. A gunner’s mate is responsible for repairing, cleaning, and loading weapons.

"The best part of my job is shooting the guns for qualification and to make sure they are working properly," Holder said.

Holder credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Milton.

"I grew up around weapons and learned to respect the weapon and know the fundamentals," Holder said.

U.S. Navy sailors, like Holder, are stationed both stateside and on the high seas aboard surface ships around the world. Philippine Sea is one of more than 60 ships on the east coast of the United States as part of Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

U.S. Navy ships are deployed globally, and their presence helps the Navy control the sea. Sea control is vital to project power, secure common areas, deter aggression and assure allies when and where desired.

Due to its extensive combat capability, Philippine Sea is able to fire Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and other weapons as part of sustained combat operations against targets on and below the sea, in addition to hitting targets hundreds of miles over the land.

The ship is equipped with the Aegis Combat System, which integrates the ship’s electronic sensors and weapons systems to defend against anti-ship missile threats. The ship’s air search and fire control radar provides continuous search and tracking of hundreds targets simultaneously.

The crew of more than 400 sailors build a strong fellowship while working alongside each other. The sailors are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions as part of a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.

"There is a vast amount of weapons aboard the ship from guided missile launching systems, gun mounts and other ordnance equipment as well as small arms and magazines we are responsible for," Holder added.

Though there are many ways for a sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Holder is most proud of receiving a Navy Achievement Medal for perseverance and attention to detail while offloading ammunitions.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Holder and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.

"Serving in the Navy, I get the opportunity serve my country and better protect it through my rate," Holder said.