A Johnstown woman’s biggest thrill may be taking the helm of a $3 billion warship, but her greatest love is serving with other sailors who share her passion for serving her country.
Navy Ensign Kara L. Yingling, a 2008 graduate of Bishop McCort Catholic High School, has been serving aboard the USS Higgins, a guided-missile destroyer based in San Diego.
Her last deployment, for nine months, ended in October. Yingling’s ship spent most of that time in the Arabian Gulf and Pacific Ocean.
“We participated in a number of exercises, theater security cooperation events, and maritime presence operations with partner nations,” said the daughter of Kenneth and Susan Yingling of Upper Yoder Township.
“We visited Palau, Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai, Thailand, Japan, Guam and Hawaii.”
Yingling serves as the electrical officer on the ship and leads a division of electricians who repair and maintain critical electrical and electronic equipment for combat systems and the engineering plant.
Yingling also is one of the ship’s officers of the deck underway, those who assume control of the ship during underway periods.
“I am in charge of driving the ship, following our navigation plan, avoiding contacts, and executing our plan of the day,” she said.
“It’s an incredible amount of responsibility for a 24-year-old to be driving a $3 billion warship, but I absolutely love it.”
Yingling, a 2012 graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., said her graduation has had an enormous impact on her.
She said she felt privileged to have received a nomination to attend the academy from the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown.
“I knew that I wanted to attend a school where I would be surrounded by people with the same passion for serving our country,” she said. Yingling said she was afforded the opportunities to serve the local community in Annapolis through volunteer programs and the Midshipman Action Group.
“Annapolis become a second hometown for me,” she said. “Being surrounded by so many people who cared for me reminded me of Johnstown and the support network that I came from.”
Yingling said she has the utmost respect for her everyone on her ship.
“The sailors whom I serve with are incredible,” she said. “They sacrifice so much, and so do their families.
“After seeing a nine-month deployment, the long work days and the amount of time spent away from home, I’m surprised that any sailor would willingly do this for a living, but they do, and they do it without complaining.
“They do it because they love their country and they love their families for supporting them through a career like this.”
Yingling has an older sister, Shannon, who graduated from the Naval Academy two years ahead of her and is a helicopter pilot on the USS Harry S. Truman.
“I thought we were close after living together for 16 years, but through our shared experiences, we’re even closer,” said Yingling.
Cmdr. Nicole L. M. Shue, commanding officer of the Higgins, said Yingling is the future of tomorrow’s Navy.
One might underestimate her strength of leadership because of her petite stature, her innocent laugh and her engaging smile, Shue said.
“But she is a mentally tough, talented and dedicated Naval officer,” the commander said. “Her sailors are dedicated to the mission and to her success. An ensign is an apprentice onboard and her sailors are motivated and eager to help her learn and become successful.
“That is certainly a mark of a future leader,” Shue said.
Yingling, who was in The Tribune-Democrat’s guest editor program as a high school student several years ago, has volunteered to be Shue’s public affairs officer. Shue said Yingling performed brilliantly during a nine-month deployment, writing news articles about visits at seven ports.
“She has a maturity level that is above her peers, and she is able to understand and execute complex surface-warfare tactics,” Shue said. “She is one of my best officers of the deck underway, entrusted to drive a ballistic missile defense destroyer through some of the most challenging harbors and conduct maritime security operations while in the Arabian Gulf.”
Susan Yingling said she and her husband are proud of their daughter’s service to her country.
Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.