NORFOLK, Va. – A Stallings native and 2005 Piedmont High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the service’s newest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
Lt. Tyler “Shipwreck” Dunn is an operations administration officer aboard the carrier homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.
As a Navy operations administration officer, Dunn is responsible for supporting the administration side of the operations department and is a bridge watchstander by being the commanding officer’s direct representative on the bridge in charge of safe navigation and operations of the ship.
Dunn credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Stallings.
“I learned to be resourceful,” Dunn said. “Being able to work through mission accomplishment with a limited set of tools at your disposal.”
Commissioned in 2017, Ford, or ‘Warship 78’ as she is known by the crew, is 1,106 feet long; longer than three football fields. The ship, a true floating city, weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 256 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.
The ship is named after the 38th President of the United States, and U.S. Navy veteran, Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the U.S. Naval reserve, serving from 1942 to 1946. While serving at Navy Preflight School in 1942 in Chapel Hill, he taught seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill. At sea, Ford served aboard the light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey, which saw action in the Pacific throughout World War II. After the war, Ford left naval service, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander.
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Dunn is most proud of deploying to the Arctic Circle to conduct exercises.
“With the attention to detail required, it speaks to what the Navy can accomplish and most other nations would not be able to execute,” Dunn said.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard the carrier. Approximately 2,600 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 will form the air wing responsible for flying and maintaining the aircraft aboard the ship.
“Sailors are the lifeblood of any warship and the men and women of the USS Gerald R. Ford are the absolute best that our Navy has to offer,” said Capt. John J. Cummings, commanding officer of USS Gerald R. Ford. “Because of the work they do, Warship 78 sailors will take our ship over the horizon and answer our nation’s call in ways that have never been done before. Our sailors are strong, resilient, and truly embody our ship’s motto of ‘Integrity at the Helm.’”
Ford, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship will carry 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 Ford 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.
“During a time of national discourse, I value being a part of an organization that supports creating an environment where difficult conversations can be had,” Dunn said. “We protect the nation from external forces that would seek to infringe our rights as Americans.”
Jesse Hawthorne is a mass communication specialist 1st class with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.