A 2018 Purvis High School graduate and Purvis native returned home June 16, marking the end of a seven-month deployment aboard the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.
Since departing its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, in November 2019, the aircraft carrier sailed in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
Petty Officer Third Class Justin Sylvester is a fire controlman aboard the carrier. As a fire controlman, Sylvester is responsible for the maintenance and operation of various weapon systems on the ship, specifically the ship’s self-defense system that provides the ship with integration of radars and weapons systems to defend against threats.
“Without fire controlmen, this ship would not be a warship ... but instead just a floating airport,” Sylvester said.
Following a scheduled return from deployment in March after operating in the U.S. Fifth and Sixth Fleet areas of operations, the Truman remained underway in the Western Atlantic as a certified and ready carrier ship. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, the Truman continued to conduct operations while minimizing the potential spread of the virus aboard the ship. The vessel maintained maritime stability to deter aggression and defend U.S. and allied interests.
The Truman sailed more than 56,000 nautical miles, deploying to support dual-carrier operations, air defense exercises, anti-submarine warfare exercises and interoperability with joint services and allies.
The ship also completed multiple strait and choke point transits to include the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal and the Bab-el Mandeb Strait, while operating under three combatant commanders, including U.S. Northern Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command.
“I’m proud of the resiliency of this ship and the people stationed onboard,” Sylvester said. “It has been a tough deployment, but the sailors onboard have proven that they are some of the toughest people on Earth.”
The Truman demonstrated the Navy’s continuing regional commitment to European Command and Central Command areas of responsibility by hosting 80 embarked guests, including political and military leaders from eight ally and partner nations.
These embarks directly supported U.S. Fifth and Sixth Fleet theater security objectives and greatly enhanced U.S. relationships and partnerships with multiple NATO ally and partner nations and Gulf Cooperation Council members.
“I’m so very proud of all our sailors,” said Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh, commanding officer of the Truman and a native of Petal. “Their resilience, perseverance and utter dedication to mission has been nothing short of exemplary.”
According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world as more than 70 percent of the planet is covered by water and 90 percent of all trade travels by sea.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard the Truman. More than 6,000 men and women serve aboard the ship during deployment.
“My division and I provide the ship with self-defense,” Sylvester said. “The aircraft are our first choice when it comes to engaging a threat, but if for some reason that is not possible, we are able to defend the ship with (weapons systems).”
Throughout the deployment, the Truman performed numerous training exercises to develop tactical competencies. From carrier strike force operations as the flagship of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to exercises with partner navies and forces, the ship’s crew developed key skillsets to maintain readiness and interoperability.
While conducting stability operations in the Central Command area of responsibility, the strike group was called upon during an international crisis to assert American commitment to the region and act as a primary de-escalatory catalyst.
As a member of the Navy, Sylvester, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance.
Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.
“I joined the Navy to see the world outside of small-town Mississippi and to make my family proud,” Sylvester said.
Turnbow works for the Navy in the Office of Community Outreach.