Willingboro native participates in Large Scale Exercise aboard U.S. Navy warship

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vanessa C. BehrendPhoto by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vanessa C. Behrend

By Lt. Omari Faulkner
Navy Office of Community Outreach

NORFOLK, Va. – A Willingboro, New Jersey, native is participating in the Large-Scale Exercise (LSE 2021) aboard USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), a U.S. Navy warship that transports and launches Marines from sea to shore as part of amphibious assault operations.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Imani Taylor-Handy, a 2013 Willingboro High School graduate, joined the Navy two years ago.
“I wanted the opportunity to travel to many places around the globe and continue my education,” said Taylor-Handy.

According to Taylor-Handy, the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Willingboro.

“I learned that there were so many other places I can travel to,” said Taylor-Handy.

LSE 2021 demonstrates the Navy’s ability to employ precise, lethal, and overwhelming force globally across three naval component commands, five numbered fleets, and 17 time zones. LSE 2021 merges live and synthetic training capabilities to create an intense, robust training environment. It will connect high-fidelity training and real-world operations, to build knowledge and skills needed in today’s complex, multi-domain, and contested environment.

“During Large Scale Exercise 21, USS Whidbey Island demonstrated enhanced medical capabilities while seamlessly integrating our Fleet Surgical Team,” said commanding officer of USS Whidbey Island, Cmdr. Kristel Anne O’Canas. This critical mission set will allow a dynamic force employment in the Surface Fleet by expanding medical care capacity across various surface combatants.”

Whidbey Island is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment in support of amphibious operations including landings via Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores.

Homeported in Little Creek, Virginia, Whidbey Island is longer than two football fields at 610 feet. The ship is 84 feet wide and weighs more than 16,000 tons. It has four diesel engines that can push the ship through the water in excess of 25 mph.

Serving in the Navy means Taylor-Handy is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy is vital to the protection of the seas, both at home and abroad,” said Taylor-Handy.

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Taylor-Handy as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“Serving is a stepping stone to something greater in life, and I am grateful for the opportunity,” added Taylor-Handy.