SAN DIEGO -- Mary Quenga is reaping the rewards of being on time.
The Mason City, Iowa, native and 2009 Mason City High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Petty Officer 1st Class Quenga works in administration in aviation maintenance aboard the carrier operating out of San Diego. As a Navy aviation maintenance administrationman, Quenga is responsible for all the administrative upkeep of the computer systems for the aircrew.
Quenga credits her success in the Navy for many of the lessons learned growing up in Mason City.
“I have always been one to be on time,” said Quenga. “That really applies to the military, it's huge. It sets you apart to be on time.”
Named in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier is longer than three football fields, measuring nearly 1,100 feet. The ship weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 252 feet wide.
Powerful catapults slingshot aircraft off the bow of the ship. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft.
The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world's population, many of the world's largest and smallest economies, several of the world's largest militaries, and many U.S. allies. The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades.
Quenga is most proud of earning multiple Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
“Earning those medals shows that I really excelled at my job,” said Quenga. “To receive those is an honor because your command wanted to recognize you for doing such a great job.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Quenga, who has family members who have previously served. Quenga is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My sister was in the Army,” said Quenga. “I always looked up to her. If I was half as successful as she was, I would be good to go in life.”
Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the ship's crew, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly -- from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 men and women form the air wing responsible for flying and maintaining the aircraft aboard the ship.
"Naval aviation is the ultimate team sport, and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier cannot accomplish her mission without the professionalism and expertise of every sailor aboard," said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, commanding officer Theodore Roosevelt. "The crew of Theodore Roosevelt has proven themselves time and time again, and their level of professionalism and dedication is second to none."
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Theodore Roosevelt, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.
All of this makes the Theodore Roosevelt a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.
"Serving in the Navy means being a part of something bigger than yourself,” added Quenga. “Now that I have kids and a husband, I do it for them.”