ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Now a commander and the current officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Landing Signal Officer (LSO) School in Oceana, Virginia, Roberts was aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during the ship's most recent set of carrier qualifications, March 17- 23.
"The platform is a sacred place to me, and being a paddles ultimately shaped a large part of my career and who I am as a naval aviator. It's exceptionally poignant for me to get to be the Navy's senior LSO at the end of my career, and to keep a promise I made to myself nearly 20 years ago."
In 1998, aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), then Lt. Bryan "RJ" Roberts walked back from his jet, having just carrier qualified. He high-fived his friend "Shakey" who was headed out to the flight line for his qualification. A few hours later, Roberts received the news that Shakey had been killed in an accident.
"It crushed me to my soul, but it also changed me," said Roberts. "I vowed then and there that something like that would never happen to a friend of mine again. I was going to be an LSO and do my best to keep my friends safe."
Now a commander and the current officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Landing Signal Officer (LSO) School in Oceana, Virginia, Roberts was aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during the ship's most recent set of carrier qualifications, March 17- 23.
"It was great to be out on Abraham Lincoln for my last ship," said Roberts. "Up until she came out of the yards, she was the only carrier I hadn't had the fortune of waving on, so I've been aboard for every underway, except one, since June. Abe has a fantastic crew, and we LSOs really like working with the Lincoln team. As far as the primary mission of a carrier, Abe performs well above what one would expect of a more seasoned crew, and everyone involved is just a pleasure to work with."
Roberts has amassed more than 3,300 flight hours, 100 combat sorties, and 830 carrier arrested landings in all models of the F-14 and the F/A-18 during his career.
"I can't thank the Abe team enough for sending me out in style," said Roberts. "From one last 'paddles to the platform' to some seriously sentimental parting gifts, the team really found a way to make my last passes something special. It was a great week that I'll never forget. Time to hang up my paddles, and I can now do so with a full heart."
Roberts received his commission in 1995 upon graduating from the United States Naval Academy. After completing flight training and earning his wings as a naval aviator, he reported to the Grim Reapers of (VF) 101 where he received initial training in the F-14A Tomcat.
Following his junior officer tour, Roberts reported to the U.S. Navy LSO School where he served as the primary LSO instructor for the fleet and a flight instructor for the Tomcat.
In June 2004, Roberts reported to Commander, Carrier Air Wing 8 as the head LSO and safety officer, encompassing the F-14's last deployment.
"As a Tomcat guy, it was extremely meaningful for me to be the last Tomcat LSO and to be on the pickle for the F-14's last pass ever at a ship," said Roberts.
In addition to having the last of the Tomcat passes, Roberts has many firsts under his belt. He waved the first passes of the Navy's newest plane, the F-35C Lightning II and the first traps on USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Roberts has also waved the X-47B, the first unmanned vehicle to land aboard an aircraft carrier. During his career as an LSO, Roberts has waved every platform the Navy has had in the last 30 years, and on every carrier from CV 67 through CVN 78.
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