|Veterans Day Profile: Ensign John Auker-Endres ’11 is Part of the U.S. Navy’s Latest Feat
Since childhood, Ensign John Auker-Endres ’11 had always dreamed of a military career. It wasn’t until his junior year at Lebanon Valley College , however, that he finally made the decision to pursue his earlier aspirations.
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Now a member of the U.S. Navy, he is currently serving as the ship's mission center officer and assistant navigator aboard the future USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), the first vessel in its class of guided missile destroyers.
According to Auker-Endres, the ship is equipped with “the newest and most advanced technology” including a new hull, computer automation, electric propulsion, new radar, and a new gun. Though it is the largest U.S. Navy destroyer ever built, its innovations allow it to function under a crew nearly half the usual size.
The destroyer was launched into a shipyard in Bath, Maine on Oct. 29, though construction is ongoing.
Auker-Endres has had “an adventurous two years” leading to his most recent opportunity and unlikely career path for the computer science and music double major.
“As a liberal arts student, I was able to broaden my knowledge base, which has definitely helped me,” he said.
While still a student at LVC, Auker-Endres enlisted into the baccalaureate degree completion program, a competitive, delayed entry program for future officers. Immediately upon graduation, he traveled to Rhode Island for a 12-week officer candidate school, an experience he described as “the best worst time I ever had.”
Upon completion of officer candidate school, he moved to Everett, Wash. During a 17-month tour aboard the USS Ford (FFG-54), he learned how to drive, navigate, and fight ships, and earned his qualification as a surface warfare officer.
In May 2013, Auker-Endres learned that his next tour, beginning in October, would be in Virginia. However, in July, an unexpected change occurred and he accepted a position as part of the Zumwalt’s commissioning crew.
“I had heard about the program, and always wanted to be a part of it. I had been satisfied with my placement in Virginia, but this had been my number one preference from the start,” he said.
Within two weeks of accepting the assignment, he and his wife, Mary Auker-Endres ’10, made the move to the East Coast. As a requirement for his new position, he enrolled in a month-long surface navigator course in Rhode Island and graduated with honors before finally settling in Maine.
For Auker-Endres, life in the military has required a dedication to learning, and he credits his liberal arts education for enabling his success in an ever-changing, demanding environment.
“As a computer science and music major, I didn’t know a lot about engineering, but my exposure to a variety of subjects like physics and math allowed me work through things,” he said.
As a leader aboard the USS Zumwalt, he will practice some of the transferrable skills that he says he honed during college through his roles as a resident assistant, leader in Alpha Phi Omega, and as a student worker at the College help desk.
“It’s not my responsibility to turn the wrench and make things work, but I need to know who to assign and how to manage that operation,” he said.
Currently, Auker-Endres must wait for the arrival of his sailors and is looking forward to Nov. 18, the day he will be promoted from ensign to lieutenant junior grade.
There has been recent excitement at home, too. The Auker-Endres family welcomed the newest member of their own crew, a son, last month.