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Local native serving in elite Navy unit

The U.S. Navy Seabees are a specialized group of enlisted personnel trained in both combat and the craft skills of the construction industry, and a Mount Airy native is among their ranks.

Eighty years ago, members of the Navy Construction Battalions were fittingly nicknamed, “Seabees,” a play on the C and B initials — with the unit fittingly adopting a bumblebee as its mascot.

Since 1942, sailors assigned to the Navy’s Construction Force have been building and fighting around the world in historic locations and campaigns such as Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Inchon landing, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

And Petty Officer 2nd Class Ray Hughes, a Mount Airy native, is one of its sailors who is helping to continue the proud legacy of the Seabees, according to a report from Megan Brown at the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

“The Navy was the branch for me,” said Hughes. “It is versatile and encompasses everything I thought it was going to, to make me more well-rounded.”

Hughes, a 2007 Mount Airy High School graduate, presently serves as a steelworker with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 at the headquarters for naval construction forces in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Lessons Hughes learned from a local teacher are serving him well in the military, the report from Brown notes.

“I would like to thank Trish Walker,” said Hughes.

“She was my science teacher — she taught me you have to make a decision and stick with it,” he explained.

The overall values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Mount Airy, according to Hughes.

“I learned from playing football in my hometown that you need to be kind and deliberate,” the military member said. “At times of uncertainty in the Navy, it is important to (be decisive).”

Serving in the Navy means Hughes is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on strengthening alliances, modernizing capabilities, increasing capacities and maintaining military readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy protects the waters and is so versatile, which is how it contributes to national defense,” Hughes observed.

With more than 90% of all trade traveling by sea, and 95% of the world’s international phone and Internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables resting on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize the importance of accelerating America’s advantage at sea.

“Maintaining the world’s best Navy is an investment in the security and prosperity of the United States, as well as the stability of our world,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of Naval Operations.

“The U.S. Navy — forward deployed and integrated with all elements of national power — deters conflict, strengthens our alliances and partnerships and guarantees free and open access to the world’s oceans,” Gilday added.

“As the United States responds to the security environment through integrated deterrence, our Navy must continue to deploy forward and campaign with a ready, capable, combat-credible fleet.”

Hughes and the other sailors who serve have many opportunities to realize accomplishments during their military careers.

“I am most proud of my deployment in 2015,” he said. “We visited five countries and worked with other host nations’ military to fix and build schools.”

As Hughes and fellow sailors continue to train and perform missions, they take pride in continuing an 80-year legacy and serving their country in the U.S. Navy.

“We are the few that will stand for the many,” he said.



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