PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Red lights dimly illuminate empty passageways aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88). Hours earlier, these same passageways were filled with Sailors, each thinking about their next watch, upcoming missions, required maintenance and their family and friends back home. Now, as they settle into their racks for the night, a familiar voice comes over the ship's announcing system. "Good evening Preble, this is the chaplain."
Lt. Jon Neil, a Navy chaplain assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, served as the chaplain aboard Preble for the past two and a half years and will be leaving the command in November.
"I've had the privilege of being invited into a very special relationship with the Sailors and I never want to lose a sense of awe for that experience," said Neil. "I wish Preble well and will continue to pray for Preble even after I leave."
Neil has set in place a legacy to continue beyond his years with DESRON 23 by encouraging others to step into his shoes. Regardless of their rate, rank or time aboard the ship, every Sailor has the power to make a difference in the lives of the shipmates around them.
Recently, evening prayers aboard Preble have not been led by the chaplain, as is tradition, but by a sonar technician, an electrician's mate, and an information systems technician. As lay leaders, these enlisted Sailors have been trained to fill certain roles that a chaplain provides, even when one is not present.
"I feel honored to have the opportunity to offer encouragement to my shipmates," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Samantha F. Reilly, the nondenominational lay leader representing Unity Church of Hawaii aboard Preble. "Evening prayer gives the Sailors of Preble a sense of closure to their day and fosters faith in a higher power."
Neil said that even without being a chaplain or lay leader, everyone has the chance to impact a person's attitude through small acts of kindness.
"It's amazing how sometimes it's the simple things like inviting someone to sit with you for a meal, greeting someone with a smile, giving them a word of encouragement or asking how someone is doing can literally be the thing that turns someone's day around," said Neil.
He also said it doesn't take any special training or qualifications to be a good listener and care for shipmates who need support.
"Ninety percent of the time it's a listening ear that people really need," said Neil. "It's not really magic. If you just take the time to listen to someone and really care, you don't have to have profound wisdom or know all the answers. That listening ear can be enough to get someone through difficult times."
Though Neil expresses that each individual's circumstance is unique, the hardships of being underway and staying motivated while working long hours at sea are common themes that most Sailors on board can relate to.
"One of the things that always strikes me is the resiliency of Sailors and Marines and what people do when faced with difficult circumstances and what they can accomplish when they dedicate themselves to that task," said Neil. "When we pull together and really care for one another, strengthen one another, and look out for one another, we can accomplish far more than we ever will as individuals."
Preble is currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), and guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Sampson (DDG 102).
The TRCSG deployment is an example of the U.S. Navy's routine presence in waters around the globe, displaying commitment to stability, regional cooperation and economic prosperity for all nations. Preble departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a regularly scheduled deployment, Oct. 16, to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
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