NEWPORT NEWS (NNS) -- A USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) officer has broken stereotypes in the Navy across all ranks during the past 22 years.
Cmdr. Muhammad Khan, Air Department's Head of Department emigrated from Karachi, Pakistan in 1981, to earn a bachelor's degree in Computer Science at North Texas State University. Later, fascinated with Naval Aviation after watching the movie Top Gun, he enlisted in the Navy in 1987.
"He is a great guy and a natural leader. He doesn't care about nationality or religion. He lets your work speak for you," said Lt.j.g. Rami Islam, Engineering department's auxiliary division officer. "He is breaking stereotypes and making a name for Muslims and immigrants in the military."
During his first years in the country, he avoided contact with most Americans and associated with other Pakistanis because of preexisting stereotypes he'd had from movies he watched and stories he heard.
"I was under a very different impression of Americans in general," said Khan. "It was only after I started interacting with Americans when I began to realize that they were similar to me and mainstream media was not always true."
Khan soon became a U.S. citizen and in 1989 became commissioned through Aviation Officer Candidate School. He received his Naval Flight Officer wings in 1991.
During the 18 years that followed, Khan worked hard to establish himself and participated in Eastern European and many Middle Eastern conflicts running flight drills and providing tactical assistance.
"Whenever I was interviewed by foreign reporters, they always asked me the same question first," said Khan. "'How do they treat you?' They always wondered if as a Muslim American I was treated differently. My answer always surprised them, I was an American, and I was treated as an equal."
Khan believes that programs like American Heritage Observance Committee (AHOC) are important in raising awareness on diverse cultures and different religions.
"I am a firm believer that this is the greatest country in the world," said Khan. "Where else can an immigrant come in, be granted citizenship and become an equal to everybody else with the same opportunities? Nowhere."
USS Carl Vinson is completing its scheduled RCOH at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.
During RCOH, Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel has been replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and ready for another 25 years or more of service.
For more news from USS Carl Vinson, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn70/.