Published in the June 29, 2017 edition
By BILL LAFORME
NORTH READING – Chris Peters, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, got to visit his home town last week for the first time in some years as he prepares for his next overseas deployment, this time to the Middle East.
During a brief visit to North Reading on Monday, Peters spoke with the Transcript about his 11 years as an active duty Naval officer, as well as his time growing up in town. Peters is a member of the North Reading High School Class of 2002 who was in the drama club and who was a class vice president. Growing up, he reportedly lived near Martins Pond and also attended the middle school and the Hood School. After graduating from high school, Peters majored in political science at George Washington University, where was also in the Naval ROTC. Peters said that his interest in the Navy came about almost by accident, although his grandfather was a Navy veteran who served on a submarine during World War II. Peters said that the memory of his grandfather was particularly helpful in getting him through the earliest days of his Navy training, when he still wasn’t sure if it was right for him during what he described as a “steep learning curve.” He added that to this day, he wishes he could exchange stories with his grandfather about their Navy experiences.
Today, Peters is a surface warfare officer who most recently served as a department head, leading three divisions of about 90 total sailors, on board the USS Lake Champlain. The cruiser is part of the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group that spent a portion of this year doing exercises near the Korean Peninsula in response to ongoing tensions there. While on board the Lake Champlain, Peters reportedly spent a month in the South China Sea, before going on to participate in an annual training exercise with the South Korean and Japanese Navies. That recent journey also reportedly included a stop in Singapore. However, for Peters, the most memorable part of that exercise may have been the week he spent on board the Korean destroyer Wang Gon. The language barriers were reportedly considerable, but aided by ever-present translators, and Peters cited the “incredible kindness” that his hosts displayed the American guests while on board, sending them back to their own ships with gifts of Korean snacks.
This latest journey was the fifth overall deployment for Peters, who said he has now been to 15 countries and about 20 major world ports during his Naval career. He calculated that he is about to move for the eighth time in his career, and that during that time, he has spent about the equivalent of three full years at sea. The most exotic place he said he has visited is the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, while the most beautiful place he said he had seen were the Greek islands of Mykonos and Rhodes. Past deployments have taken Peters to the Arabian Gulf, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific. From 2008 to 2009, he served off the Horn of Africa, helping to protect shipping against Somali pirates. His ship reportedly ended up being relieved by the Naval vessel that would be portrayed in the Tom Hanks movie “Captain Phillips.”
“It’s given me an appreciation for what we do – that the Navy exists to be able to project American power around the world,” said Peters, noting that the vast majority of the world’s population lives near the coasts, and that an even larger majority of its trade is conducted by sea. Along with the military aspects, Peters also said he greatly enjoys the diplomatic aspects of serving in the Navy, from helping to train allied personnel and other activities that cement friendships between nations. For example, on visits to foreign ports Peters has participated in visits to local hospitals, park cleanups, sporting activities with locals, and social and training activities with foreign naval personnel – some of whom have become great friends over the years, added Peters. One particularly interesting stop Peters recalled was in Malaga, Spain on board the destroyer USS McFall, where he participated in the commemoration of a Spanish military expedition, funded by Malaga and not the Spanish Crown, to support the American Revolution against the British in what is now the Southeastern U.S.
On his next deployment, Peters is headed to Bahrain, where he will serve on operations staff for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, helping to plan exercises and support for the various carrier strike groups that come to the Gulf region.
On Monday, Peters said that it was great to see his home town again, and that he stays in touch with some old friends in North Reading to this day. “It’s my roots and it means a lot to me to be able to get back,” said Peters.