OCHS grad serving aboard guided missile destroyer

Lt. Ben Garbacz of Oil City serves in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Ross, which is ported in Rota, Spain.

A 2007 Oil City High School graduate and Oil City native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Ross.

Lt. Ben Garbacz is a surface warfare officer aboard the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer operating out of Rota, Spain. Ross is one of four destroyers home ported in Rota.

A Navy surface warfare officer is responsible for the 3D air search radar, the combat systems suite equipment, ballistic missile defense and anti-air warfare areas on board the ship.

“Because I work with ballistic missile defense, my job deals directly with the primary mission of our forward deployed naval forces here,” said Garbacz.

Commissioned in June 1997 the Ross measures about 500 feet and is powered by four gas turbines that allow the destroyer to achieve over 30 mph in open seas.

It was named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Donald K. Ross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This ship has been fitted with the Aegis ballistic missile defense capability that enables the ship to conduct long-range surveillance, tracking, and engagement of short and medium-range ballistic missiles.

According to Navy officials, destroyers are tactical multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, as well as humanitarian assistance. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required warfighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any tasking overseas.

Assigned to U.S. 6th Fleet, sailors are on watch throughout the European region and are important assets supporting the European Phased Adaptive Approach to enhance the security of that area of the world from ballistic missile threats originating in the Middle East.

In addition to Ross, three other BMD capable ships are forwarded deployed in Rota: USS Porter, USS Carney and USS Donald Cook. Having four destroyers based in Rota gives the U.S. 6th Fleet flexibility to send these ships to a variety of locations for a range of missions, while at the same time providing a large umbrella of protection for European allies.

Approximately 30 officers and 300 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the cruiser running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from washing dishes and preparing meals to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.

“This ship is able to effectively get underway quickly,” said Garbacz. “We can get up and go at a moment’s notice. The crew works really well together and is a well-oiled machine which makes serving here very enjoyable.”

Challenging living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, Navy officials explained. 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, Garbacz explained that he and other Ross sailors know they are part of a legacy that will be last beyond their lifetimes.

“I really enjoy working with all of the sailors,” added Garbacz. “In my position as an officer, you have the opportunity to impact individuals and are responsible for their well being, and I take that very seriously.”