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Covington sailor serves aboard floating airport at sea
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Justin Byrd

SAN DIEGO, Cali. – A Covington, Georgia, native and 2007 Newton County High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Byrd is an aviation electronics technician aboard the carrier operating out of San Diego. As a Navy aviation electronics technician, Byrd is responsible for maintaining infrared cameras on the F/A18 Hornets and the HS-60 Seahawk helicopters, as well as the radar on the E2-C Hawkeyes.

Byrd credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Covington. 

“I learned how to be self-reliant. If it comes down to it, I can accomplish what I need to and fend for myself,” Byrd said. 

Named in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier is longer than three football fields, measuring nearly 1,100 feet. The ship, a true floating city, weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 252 feet wide. 

Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. 

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea. 

Being stationed in San Diego, the principle homeport of the Pacific Fleet, means Byrd is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world's population, many of the world's largest and smallest economies, several of the world's largest militaries, and many U.S. allies. The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Byrd is most proud of earning the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. 

“I played a part in searching out any threats to peace in the world,” Byrd said. “It is really fulfilling to have been part of it. Everyone back home can rest easy knowing that we are out there getting the job done.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Byrd, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Byrd is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My grandfather was in the Army and my aunt and uncle were both in the Navy. My great-grandfather was also in the Army during Pearl Harbor,” Byrd said. “He was actually there fighting back. I wanted to keep the military tradition going.” 

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard the carrier. Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the ship's crew, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly -- this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 men and women form the air wing responsible for flying and maintaining the aircraft aboard the ship. 

"Naval aviation is the ultimate team sport, and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier cannot accomplish her mission without the professionalism and expertise of every sailor aboard," Capt. Carlos Sardiello, commanding officer Theodore Roosevelt, said. "The crew of Theodore Roosevelt has proven themselves time and time again, and their level of professionalism and dedication is second to none."

Theodore Roosevelt, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea. 

All of this makes the Theodore Roosevelt a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Byrd and other Theodore Roosevelt sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs. 

"I am one of the few and the proud," Byrd said. "I left my home state to go out around the world to keep everyone else safe.”