Gainesville Native serves aboard future U.S. Navy warship

Aaron Dampier

By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

A native of Gainesville, Florida, is serving aboard one of the nation’s newest and most versatile combat ships, the future USS Kansas City.

Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Dampier is a 2009 Hawthorne High School graduate. According to Dampier, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Gainesville.

“I learned that nothing comes to you without hard work and dedication,” Dampier said.

Kansas City is an Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) that will be commissioned by the U.S. Navy on June 20 in San Diego. Ship commissioning is an old naval tradition that places a ship in active service.

Kansas City, the second ship to bear the name of the largest city in Missouri, is the 21st LCS to be delivered to the Navy and the 11th of the Independence-variant to join the fleet. The first Kansas City was assigned to a heavy cruiser during WWII; however, construction was canceled after one month due to the end of the war. The name was also assigned to the Wichita-class replenishment oiler USS Kansas City (AOR 3) in 1967. This ship saw service in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm and was decommissioned in 1994.

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, while capable of open-ocean tasking and winning against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and fast surface craft. They are capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence.

“I am extremely proud of this crew and the dedication they’ve exemplified while preparing Kansas City for commissioning,” said Cmdr. RJ Zamberlan, Kansas City’s commanding officer. “We are honored and excited to represent the Navy, the nation, and our namesake, as well as fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall.'”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Kansas City. Approximately 70 men and women make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the ship running smoothly. Each crew member performs a number of tasks outside of their traditional job or rating.

Dampier is a boatswain’s mate responsible for the launching and recovering of small boats from the ship and helicopters on the flight deck.

“I like the diversity of taskings that I am able to do and being cross-trained,” Dampier said.

According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world, as more than 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water and 90 percent of all trade travels by sea.

The foundation of the Navy the nation needs includes a focus on warfighting, warfighters and the future of the fighting force.

“I am confident that we will maximize the Navy we have today while delivering the Navy that our nation will rely upon tomorrow,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “We will do so with urgency. Our fleet will be a potent, formidable force that competes around the world every day, deterring those who would challenge us while reassuring our allies and partners.”

According to Navy officials, the path to becoming an LCS Sailor is a long one. Following an 18-month training pipeline, sailors have to first qualify on a simulator that is nearly identical to the ship and then complete certifications aboard an LCS training ship. This intense and realistic training pipeline allows sailors to execute their roles and responsibilities immediately upon stepping on board.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction within their command, community and career, Dampier is most proud of making rank to petty officer first class and earning both his surface and air warfare specialist insignias.

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Dampier, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Dampier is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“Two people in my family have inspired me to become the sailor I am today,” Dampier said. “The first is Russ Dyson, my father in-law, who is a retired army sergeant and the other, Kevin Wascak, an active duty explosive ordnance master chief. Both men are the reason I strive to be the best.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy, Dampier, 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 means putting everything on the line to defend freedom and democracy around the world,” Dampier said. “I’m living the dream!”

Due to public health safety and restrictions of large public events related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Navy cancelled the traditional public commissioning ceremony for the future USS Kansas City (LCS 22). The Navy will commission Kansas City via naval message and transition the ship into service as scheduled.

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