A Conversation with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III: A Visit to the USS Harry S. Truman

June 9, 2010 — According to its motto, the Navy tries to be “A global force for good.” How it translates into action is best seen in person, as in my visit last fall aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Harry S. Truman. This spring, Governor Joe Manchin III of West Virginia also toured the Truman. From the news reports, his reactions sounded a lot like mine. He described the arrested landing (150 mph to zero in two seconds), the tour of every deck of the great ship, and the catapult takeoff (zero to 150 in two seconds) as “24 hours of a lifetime.” I followed up with the Governor and was honored to have a conversation with him.[1]

Tom: What impressed you the most about your Truman visit?

Gov Joe Manchin Arrives Aboard Truman
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III arrives on the USS Harry S. Truman
Gov. Manchin: The Navy proves every day that our young people can perform, that they can have achievement and results. We live in a troubled world and troubled times, but when you see what has been done with good leadership, it makes you realize everything we can do.

I’ve seen the military take these young men and women from everyday walks of life. They’ve prepared them to step up to the plate and do difficult, technical tasks in a safe manner. It gave me a new appreciation for what we can do in our country.

Tom: What would you say to young people thinking of serving today?

Gov. Manchin: I’d encourage kids to sign up. Today’s military is a different from what most people think. It’s very professional, demands skill sets. Today’s Navy is a character builder and a private sector work-force builder. The fact is that average people can’t operate an aircraft carrier. So the Navy has to take average people and make them above-average. The training can change a person’s life. It builds character and leadership.

I grew up in a traditional family. I learned discipline and structure from working in my father’s small business. When I came home from school, I don’t remember a time when my Mom wasn’t there. Today the typical family is different. Not structured the same. A family may have a single parent, or both parents may work to provide quality of life. In today’s family it’s more challenging than it used to be to instill character and discipline. A tour in the military can fill a big void.
People with military training are people we can build on. To illustrate, I’d like to see us put retired military personnel in front of our public classrooms.

Gov Joe Manchin Group Shot Aboard Truman
Governor Manchin (as indicated by the arrow) and his group on the aircraft deck of the USS Harry S. Truman
Tom: I share my blog posts with Captain Clarkson, the commanding officer of the Truman. Any words for him and his crew about your visit?

Gov. Manchin: I’m amazed at how well they do a very challenging task. Talk about leadership. They’re taking raw, untrained talent and turning these young men and women [the 5,000 people on board average 18 years old] into the most skilled professionals in the world. Tell them all, the whole group, that they’ve definitely done their job

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