ON BOARD USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- At first glance, Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry Sherrill looks like any other petty officer walking through the passageway, but his military career has been a more extensive than most E-5s on board.
After 10 years in the Air Force, four years in the Air National Guard and three years in the Army Reserves, Sherrill, an Austin, Texas, native, has found himself part of USS George Washington (CVN 73).
In 1979, Sherrill worked as a telephone lineman in the Air Force. He rigged telephone lines, set poles and worked with radar. In 1990 as an E-5, he left the military for the civilian workforce, but he soon joined the Air Force Reserve to keep his military career alive.
In 1996 his time with the Air Force ended when his reserve unit was deactivated. Instead of moving to a base far away, Sherrill switched to the Army Reserve and stayed closer to home.
In the Army Reserve, he filled an E-8 billet as an E-5. It was more of an administrative position overlooking the same job he does now, non-destructive inspection.
In 1999, Sherrill got frustrated with civilian jobs, and made the decision to go active duty once again. After being ignored by the Air Force recruiter, Sherrill stopped by the Navy recruiting office and found what he was looking for.
"After showing them all my paperwork and completion of school letters, the commander at the recruiting station told my recruiter, 'If you don't sign this guy you will be fired,'" Sherill said.
At the time, the Navy was in need of aircraft structural mechanics. One with non-destructive inspection (NDI) experience was just a bonus.
NDI is a process of inspecting metallic parts of a jet without destroying them. Technicians do this by using magnetic particle inspection, and X-ray, to find cracks or fissures on the insides of parts.
Sherrill got his experience earlier in his career when he was sent to Millington, Tenn., to attend NDI School while assigned to an Air Force Reserve unit out of Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas. Even with all his military experience, Sherrill still spent eight weeks learning the Navy's core values in Great Lakes, Ill., at boot camp.
In July 1999, his Navy career began at Recruit Training Command. Sherrill grinned proudly when asked about his boot camp experiences. "I was out of shape, but even at my age, I was still putting 18-and 19-year-old kids to shame," the 41-year-old said. "Navy boot camp was a little tougher than Air Force boot camp...but this was all mental."
On liberty weekend he achieved something no other recruit in his division did, he turned 39-years-old. When he joined, he kept his Air Force rank of E-5, although during boot camp he was an E-3.
"I figure they didn't want me outranking my [recruit division commander]," Sherrill said.
Fresh out of boot camp, this new but experienced Sailor was sent to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island's, Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department. Sherrill spent two years at Whidbey Island before terminating his shore duty early to become a part of the Precommissioning Unit (PCU) Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). After just a few months with the PCU, Sherrill volunteered for the chance to join GW's crew for the 2002 deployment.
"The GW needed an [NDI] tech, so I volunteered for the job," said Sherrill enthusiastically.
He said the difference between the Navy and the Air Force is that the Navy is more frequently forward deployed, and he likes that.
"I want to be on the frontlines where the action is, so I can make a difference. Nothing against my Air Force boys, but they are always the last to get there and the first to leave," Sherrill said.
Sherrill definitely got himself a ride to the frontlines because that's just where the GW is taking him. But this is not his first time overseas. While in the Air Force Reserves, his civilian employer transferred him to Germany. Sherrill finished out his reserve career at Ramstein AFB. This is where he met his wife of nine years and mother of his two children.
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