NORFOLK – A 2014 Murphy High School graduate and Mobile native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Gunston Hall. Javess Spencer is a fireman aboard the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship operating out of Norfolk, Virginia. A Navy fireman is responsible for training and developing knowledge of ship’s engineering spaces and equipment.

Spencer_Javess“As an engineer I get to spend a lot of time working with my hands, which I enjoy doing,” said Spencer. “I learn something new everyday so I’m not ever bored.”

Commissioned in 1989, USS Gunston Hall is 610 feet long. The ship can travel at speeds in excess of 20 nautical miles per-hour. Gunston Hall is one of eight Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships currently in service. The ships primary purpose is to launch equipment and personnel for amphibious missions.

“I am intensely proud of the accomplishments of this crew and our maintenance team,” said Cmdr. Eric Lull, commanding officer, USS Gunston Hall. “Over the last 20 months, they have made improvements to the ship from stem to stern, and over the last few months specifically, they have brought her back to life. Thanks to their hard work, we are ready to return to sea, and bring Gunston Hall back in to the operational ranks of the fleet.”

Approximately 22 officers and 390 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the ship running smoothly. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.

“I just arrived to the ship and what is unique about this ship is that everyone works well together and enjoys each other’s company,” Spencer said. “It is a good environment to be in.”

Although it is difficult for most people to imagine living on a ship, the challenging living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew. The crew is highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Spencer and other Gunston Hall sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Personally serving in the Navy means to me helping as a team,” Spencer said. “The Navy offers, no matter what walk of life you are from, a path each individual can take. You have mentors that will help you achieve goals along the path you have chosen.”