Lusby Native Serves Aboard USS Harry S. Truman

By Petty Officer 1st Class Ruben Perez, Navy Office of Community Outreach

Petty Officer Michelle Gray, from Lusby, Md., serves aboard USS Harry S. Truman.
Petty Officer Michelle Gray, from Lusby, Md., serves aboard USS Harry S. Truman.

NORFOLK, Va.—A 2006 Patuxent High School graduate and Lusby, Md., native is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michelle Gray is an aviation boatswain’s mate (handler) (ABH) aboard the Norfolk-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only ten operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today. Named in honor of former President Harry Truman, the carrier is longer than 3 football fields, at nearly 1,100 feet long. The ship is 252 feet wide and weighs more than 100,000 tons. Two nuclear reactors can push the ship through the water at more than 30 mph.

As a 25 year-old with numerous responsibilities, she said service members works harder than people think. “In port it’ isn’t so strenuous or faced paced, but out to sea it can be a whole other ball game,” said Gray. She added she is following her grandfather and fathers Navy tradition. “I was raised in a Navy family, third generation. I joined as a stepping stone to a future career.”

She also said she is proud of the work she is doing as part of the Truman’s 5,500-member crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans. “Without ABH’s aircraft would not get moved and this is our primary mission.” Gray explained.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Harry S. Truman. Approximately 3,000 men and women make up the ship’s company, 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 or so form the air wing, the people who actually fly and maintain the aircraft.

“I never cease to be impressed with the type and quality of work that goes on aboard Truman each day,” said Capt. S. Robert Roth, the carrier’s commanding officer. “Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults – in many cases, 19 and 20 years old – and they’re out here running a complex propulsion system safely, serving as air traffic controllers, operating sophisticated electronics, launching and recovering aircraft when we’re underway, and keeping this floating city alive and functioning. I can’t express how proud I am to be a part of this team. They performed at the highest level, day in and day out during our recent 9-month combat deployment and are continuing to do so here at home. Their professionalism, dedication and commitment to excellence are second to none.”

USS Harry S. Truman, 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 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. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes the Harry S. Truman 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, Gray and other USS Harry S. Truman sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Fellow sailors, never forget where you come from. It can very easy to get wrapped in this world and away from home. Remember why you joined and don’t lose sight of that. You learn many things about yourself through the Navy,” said Gray.

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