A 2012 Caesar Rodney High School graduate and Dover native is serving the country in the Navy, living on the coast of Spain and participating in a NATO ballistic missile defense mission while assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Heather Vautard is a quartermaster aboard one of the four advanced warships forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, a village on the country’s southwest coast 65 miles south of Seville, Spain. A Navy quartermaster is responsible for building voyage plans, executing special evolutions and the safe navigation of the ship.

Vautard credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Dover.

“I grew up near an Air Force base, which gave me insight on how the military works,” said Vautard.

These four destroyers are forward-deployed in Rota to fulfill the U.S.’s phased commitment to NATO BMD, while also carrying out a wide range of missions to support the security of Europe.

U.S. Navy Aegis ballistic missile defense provides scalability, flexibility and mobility. These systems are equally beneficial to U.S. assets, allies and regional partners worldwide. Positioning four ballistic missile defense ships in Spain provides an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces, friends and allies while contributing to a broader defense of the U.S.

Guided-missile destroyers are 510-foot-long warships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. The ships are armed with tomahawk cruise missiles, advanced gun systems, close-in gun systems and long-range missiles to counter the threat to friendly forces posed by manned aircraft, anti-ship, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles.

Destroyers are deployed globally and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups or amphibious readiness groups. Their presence helps the Navy control the sea. The Navy cannot project power, secure the commons, deter aggression or assure allies without the ability to control the seas when and where desired.

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Vautard, who has military ties with family members who have previously served.

“My grandfather served in the Air Force, and my cousin is currently serving in the Navy,” said Vautard. “My cousin, Logan, influenced my decision to serve because of the benefits and traveling.”

While serving in the Navy may present challenges, Vautard has found rewards. Vautard earned two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and received a designation letter for master helmsman, a qualification given by the commanding officer.

“The Navy has aided my professional development by working with people from all over the world and has helped me with branching out by learning new things and traveling worldwide,” said Vautard.

Living in Spain while serving aboard the Ross has been a positive impact on the ship’s sailors, including Vautard.

“My favorite thing about serving in Spain has to be learning their language and their culture,” she said.