Kendrick grad serves as a U.S. Navy sailor on mega warship

After graduating from Kendrick High School in 2012, Breanna Chislom joined the Navy to travel the world and earn college tuition.

Now the Columbus native is a sailor aboard one of the world's largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

The Norfolk-based ship, named after the nation's 41st president, is a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only 10 operational aircraft carriers in the Navy, according to information provided by the Navy Office of Community Outreach. At nearly 1,100 feet long, the vessel is longer than three football fields. It is 252-feet-wide, weighs more than 100,000 tons, and can be pushed through the water by two nuclear reactors at more than 35 mph.

"I work in the deck department and deal with everything that makes the ship run," Chislom said.

As a sailor with numerous responsibilities, Chislom is learning about herself as a leader, sailor and a person, she said in a news release. She added that it is an exciting time to be in the Navy and serving aboard a ship is something she never expected to be doing just a couple of years ago.

Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the ship's company, doing everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors, according to the Navy. About 2,500 others form the air wing, which are the people who actually fly and maintain the aircraft.

"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," the news release said. "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 George H.W. Bush 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."

Capt. Andrew J. Loiselle, the carrier's commanding officer, said he never ceases to be impressed with the quality of work that goes on aboard this ship daily. He said the 6,000-member crew performed at the highest level during a nine-month combat deployment and it continues to do so at home.

"The USS George H.W. Bush 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," he said.

"I can't express how proud I am to be a part of this team."

Chislom said deployment was a great experience.

"I saw so much and learned a lot about myself," she said. "It was hard being away from home, not being able to call home every time something (went) wrong, and learning how to do things by myself."

The ship is designed for 50 years of service and Chislom considers herself part of a legacy that will protect the world's oceans long past her lifetime.

"Being on deployment (sends) a message to our enemies," she said. "'Do not mess with us.'"

Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.