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home : news : lakelands & beyond November 20, 2017

10/31/2017 11:15:00 AM
Saluda Native serves in Navy aboard aircraft carrier dubbed "Strength from the Sea"
By: Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

SAN DIEGO – A 2009 W. Wyman King Academy graduate and Saluda, South Carolina native is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, USS Carl Vinson.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kurtis Hatcher is a mass communication specialist aboard the San-Diego based ship, the third Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only 11 operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today.

As a mass communication specialist, Hatcher is responsible for telling the Navy story by taking multi-media products such as photos, graphic designs and printed products and distributes them within the ship to increase the crew’s morale.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Vinson. Approximately 3,000 men and women make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the aircraft carrier running. They do everything from preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Additionally, another 2,000 sailors comprise the air wing.  These are the people who fly and maintain the aircraft embarked aboard the ship.

Hatcher has carried lessons learned from his hometown into his military service.

“My family wanted me to join and growing up, they taught me a hard work ethic which I have took with me into the Navy and in return, it’s made me a better leader and sailor,” he said.

Vinson, 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 60 attack fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.

Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship, and those planes land upon their return to the aircraft carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes Vinson a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, often the first response to a global crisis because of an aircraft carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

The ship was commissioned in 1982 and named after former Georgia Congressman, Carl Vinson. A member of the United States House of Representatives for 50 years, he was, for 29 years, the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and Armed Services Committee.  Vinson was the principal sponsor of the so-called "Vinson Acts," culminating in the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940, which provided for the massive naval shipbuilding effort in World War II.

“Carl Vinson was a visionary congressman,” said Capt. Douglas Verissimo, commanding officer of USS Carl Vinson. “His support led to a stronger Navy that was pivotal in winning World War II and the Cold War. Our Sailors embody his commitment to service and bring to life a warship that has been an enduring asset to America’s defense for more than 35 years.”

Hatcher has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“I have two grandfathers who served in the Navy,” he said. "One was an aviation electronics technician and the other was a boatswain's mate. Every time I go home to see one of grandfathers, I always wear my uniform at church, family reunions and other events. I like that common bond between my grandfather and I from both of us serving our nation.”

Hatcher’s proudest accomplishment was receiving both his surface and air warfare pins serving aboard Vinson.

“It usually takes sailors almost a year to complete the needed qualifications for these pins. I received both in less than six months and it gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment,” he added.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Hatcher and other Vinson sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“I grew up in a small town and my entire family and I were extremely close,” said Hatcher. “I then went to college and graduated with a degree and that is when I decided to joined the Navy. Getting a degree and serving my nation made my family extremely proud and my brother and sister who like to live a laid-back lifestyle, influenced my decision to stand up and fight for them so they can continue to enjoy how they live.”

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