NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Madison, Illinois, native and 2013 Madison Senior High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.
Airman Dijon Bryant is an aviation ordnanceman aboard the carrier stationed in Newport News, Virginia. As a Navy aviation ordnanceman, Bryant is responsible for building weapons for the aircraft aboard the ship.
Bryant credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Madison.
“I was taught to not be complacent,” said Bryant. “If you are going to do something you should be the best at it. It's important to always have a plan.”
Named in honor of the first president of the United States, George Washington, 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 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.
George Washington is currently undergoing a four-year refueling complex overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, a process that includes refueling the ship’s nuclear reactors and modernizing more than 2,300 compartments and hundreds of systems. The carrier is expected to leave the shipyard in 2021 and return to Yokosuka, Japan, as the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
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.
Bryant 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,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Bryant is most proud of earning Sailor of the Month.
“It made me feel like I was doing my job right,” said Bryant. “I didn't think I would ever get a recognition like that because I was just doing my job.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Bryant, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Bryant is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My uncle is in the Army, and my brother is serving aboard USS Carl Vinson,” said Bryant. “My brother didn't want to join by himself. It's been a good experience.”
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.
"Our ship’s motto is the Spirit of Freedom, and this motto is evidenced daily in the actions and character of our sailors,” said Capt. Glenn Jamison, commanding officer of George Washington.
“The work they are involved in today is difficult, but is vital to national security, to our maritime strategy, and to our ability to provide compassion and aid when and where needed. I am continually impressed by the level of professionalism and expertise demonstrated by the each and every sailor who serves aboard George Washington."
George Washington, 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 George Washington 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, Bryant and other George Washington sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means I am giving back in some sort of way to my community and anyone else out there that may need help,” added Bryant. “I am doing something to better the country.”