Military appreciation, Byrd takes advantage of opportunity to see inside Naval operations
Converse County Rancher Bart Byrd took advantage of the opportunity to spend 24 hours aboard the USS Harry S. Truman in early February, citing the experience as a life changing and humbling opportunity to understand more about the U.S. Navy.
Byrd comments, “Farmers and ranchers do a service by providing food for the country, but to go out and see the men and women protecting our country and putting their life on the line for us was humbling.”
Byrd’s father was in the Navy, and his father was transferred to Midwest to do legal work when Byrd was young.
“I graduated from Natrona County High School,” he says, noting he wrestled at Northwest College in Powell for a year before moving to Texas to compete in rodeo. “Then, I met my wife. We got married in 1989.”
Byrd’s wife, Gaylynn is a third-generation rancher who was raised on Allemand Ranch 60 miles north of Glenrock.
“We’re on Allemand Ranch today, and we’ve been managing the place since we got married,” he explains. “My daughter Gina Dickerson is in her second year at law school at the University of Wyoming. Her husband Hazen will graduate this spring. My son Cory is a senior at Tartleton State University in Stephensville, Texas.”
Byrd’s father is retired from the Navy today and lives in Florida, and his grandfather served in the Navy in World War II in the South Pacific.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Navy,” Byrd says.
Each year, a number of hunters come to Allemand Ranch from around the country. Rick Thompson from near Abilene, Kansas visits the ranch each year, and Byrd and Thompson were invited by a mutual friend, Bret Batchelder, to go on an embarkment tour.
“Basically, Naval officers can invite people – usually family or good friends – to visit a Naval base and tour facilities,” Byrd explains. “We flew to Norfolk, Va., spent the night on one of the Navy bases there and toured the USS Boise, a submarine, and the USS Gonzalez, a destroyer, in port. We also had the chance to tour an aircraft carrier at sea, which is unusual.”
“We flew 300 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the USS Harry S. Truman,” he says. “It was an incredible experience.”
The USS Harry S. Truman is 1,096 feet long and has a flight deck that is 4.5 acres. The ship is the ninth nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, commissioned in 1998.
The aircraft carrier is home to Carrier Air Wing ONE to “protect U.S. interests around the world, anytime, anyplace,” says the Navy.
“This ship just came out of dock, so the sailors were doing training missions after a long period of being on land while the ship underwent maintenance,” Byrd explains. “They land and catapult – or launch – jets and planes at the same time and were undergoing training missions while we were there.”
“It was amazing,” he continues. “There were hundreds of people on deck conducting their training.”
Byrd spent 24 hours aboard the aircraft carrier, taking in the opportunity to observe the sailors in action as they practice taking off, landing, refueling and more.
“There are so many neat things that happen on the ship,” he says. “This was a really unique and neat experience. Almost anyone can tour a ship in port at the dock, but the chance to see how things really operate was fascinating and impressive.”
The USS Harry S. Truman accommodates all the necessary facets of life. From mess halls and gyms to theaters, medical facilities and more, they are able to take care of all the needs of the crew.
A machine shop, welding shop, wood shop and more provide recreation for sailors while also fulfilling the needs of the ship.
“The aircraft carrier is totally self-sustaining, with the exception of food, fuel for the planes and other supplies,” Byrd says.
Appreciation for military
While the experience of understanding what goes into a small piece of the Navy’s operations was life-changing, Byrd emphasizes the most important piece of the tour came in his appreciation for the young men and women serving in the military.
He cites the hospitality of the crew and the passion of the Naval officers for the young people serving in the military.
“Each one of the captains and admirals I met wanted to tell the story of their young sailors,” Byrd says. “There are over 5,000 people working on the aircraft carrier. Most of them are 18 to 22 years old, but they all work in sync and have so much pride in what they do.”
“These young sailors are proud of being in the Navy and proud to serve their country,” he continues. “That impacted me more than anything else.”
Byrd comments it was also refreshing to see young people having a positive impact on their country.
“There were young people of all walks of life and backgrounds, and they were all so proud to be there and working so hard for their jobs,” he says. “It made me feel like our country does have a positive future and is headed in the right direction. They are amazing young people.”
“It’s hard to explain how much goes into protecting this country,” Byrd says, noting that seeing training first hand brought to light the incredible cost it takes to defend a country. “But these soldiers are so proud to defend the U.S. and to defend freedom – for our country and other countries around the world.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.