NORFOLK, Va. - Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Tompkins, a 2004 Shiloh High School graduate from Snellville, Ga., is serving on one of the world's most advanced warships, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67).
Tompkins is a Fire Controlman (FC) aboard the Norfolk-based ship.
"Specifically, I'm the Tomahawk Missile manager for the ship," said Tompkins, "which means I'm in charge of operating and firing the tomahawk missile system onboard if the order is given."
Tompkins said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Cole's 270 plus-member crew, protecting America on the world's oceans.
The men and women that make up the ship's company keep all parts of the destroyer running smoothly - this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the gas turbine systems.
"There are some truly stand-up people who I work with onboard, and no matter where you from, how old you are, what your creed is, you are equally the same when you get here," said Tompkins, "and we've grown working together during our deployments and have a common goal, mission accomplishment."
On October 12, 2000 al-Qaeda operatives attacked the Cole in a suicide bombing mission while the Cole was anchored for refueling in Aden, Yemen.
The attack ripped a 40 by 60 foot hole in the port, or left, side of the ship near the crew's dining and mess facility. Seventeen Sailors lost their lives and another 37 Sailors were injured during the attack.
According to Tompkins, when he received the news that he would be stationed on the Cole, he felt honored.
"I was excited to get these orders here from boot camp, this ship has a lot of history," Tompkins said solemnly, "and a lot of Sailors onboard still believe that the fallen are still here amongst us in spirit."
Cole is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and one of 62 destroyers in the Navy today.
Cole is a multi-mission medium surface ship capable of sustained performance in anti-air, anti-submarine, anti-ship, and offensive strike operation. When deployed with a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, Cole, along with other AEGIS-capable cruisers and destroyers in the strike group, is primarily tasked with defending the fleet while providing secondary strike capabilities.
The wide range of missions that Cole is capable of performing, and the ability of the ship to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world's oceans often makes them the first response to a global crisis.
Tompkins knows that being onboard one of the U.S. Navy's most relied upon assets, he and the rest of the crew could be called upon to defend America at any moment.
"The most rewarding part of my job is that essentially we're the tip of the spear," said Tompkins, "we're the ones putting warheads on foreheads and defending America's freedom."
Named in honor of Marine Sergeant Darrell S. Cole, a machine-gunner killed in action during World War Two, the ship is nearly 500 feet long. The ship is 66 feet wide and weighs more than 8,000 tons. Four General Electric LM2500-30 gas turbines, along with two shafts generating up to 100,000 horsepower can push the ship through the water at more than 30 nautical mph.
Cole is scheduled to deploy later on this year.