ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Just over a month ago at Naval Station Bremerton, Wash., Cmdr. Ken Norton walked aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70); not to climb into the SH-60 Seahawk cockpit, but to sit in the executive officer's (XO) chair.
Now, behind the wooden doors of his new "executive" office, photos that trace the history of the aircraft carrier surround this former helicopter pilot, as he builds his chapter of the Carl Vinson legacy.
Aboard Vinson, the St. Paul, Minn., native joins two former Carl Vinson executive officers. Ironically, the Carl Vinson Battle Group Commander, Rear Adm. Marty Chanik, and Vinson's Commanding Officer, Capt. Rick Wren, are previous XOs of the ship.
Norton relieved Capt. Michael Manazir as executive officer, as Manazir took command of the battle group's fast combat support ship, USS Sacramento (AOE 1).
Prior to taking command of Sacramento, Manazir introduced Carl Vinson to Norton. The two officers walked the ship to meet crew members and allow Norton to get a feel for the crew's morale. Norton was impressed and somewhat surprised at what he found.
"I have never walked into a command and seen such a high level of commitment," he said. "What I saw when I looked around was a lot of dedication. People here (have taken) ownership."
Reflecting on a recent conversation with Wren, Norton pointed out what drives the crew of Carl Vinson to be the best is its sense of family. He witnessed it again and again, when he took another walk-through with Command Master Chief, CMDCM (AW/SW) Rick Rose.
While touring the mess decks, Norton was especially moved by a young airman who was temporarily assigned as a food service attendant. She reached out her hand, he recalled, and "welcomed me aboard."
"That was an awesome feeling," he said.
Norton's previous tour was as commanding officer of Helicopter Anti-Submarine (HS) Squadron 2. His entire aviation career has been aboard aircraft carriers. Though not completely unique, he explained, it is not yet commonplace for "helo" pilots to follow the aircraft carrier pipeline.
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