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Around The Fleet

Like father, like son

Families serve together on USS Kearsarge

The crew aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) had less than 36 hours to take on supplies and personnel to assist with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in August. The crew has been conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts for more than a month now, first in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma and later in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Sometime between the working parties and standing watch, Sailors had a few hours of liberty to pack their sea bags and say goodbye to their families for an undetermined amount of time.

But two pairs of fathers and sons got the chance to bring their family with them.

"I'm a very lucky man to have family onboard," said Chief Information Systems Technician Corbett Wilkinson. "Having my oldest son onboard, especially on his first underway, is very exciting. It makes me feel like home isn't so far away."

Wilkinson's son, Hospitalman Ian Wilkinson, is stationed aboard the yet-to-be-commissioned destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), which afforded him the opportunity to be temporarily assigned to Kearsarge.

I look for him frequently about the ship," the elder Wilkinson said. "Occasionally I see him speaking with a friend or coworker. I never interrupt, just smile to myself for a moment and let him enjoy his first underway onboard a Navy warship."

"The mission keeps us separate for the most part," he added. "But since we've been underway, I've seen my son put away the video games and work out more, grapple with Marines and stand a proper watch even after working all day long. I think it's amazing - I get to see firsthand how he is becoming a Sailor I'm proud to serve with each day."

The timing of his son's assignment was especially fortunate. Ian was able to pin anchors on his father during Wilkinson's chief petty officer pinning ceremony, held in Kearsarge's hangar bay, Sept. 16.

"I was so honored to get the chance to pin on my dad's anchors," said Ian, "especially now that I know how special it is and how much work goes into making a chief. ... I'm so happy I made the decision to get underway with Kearsarge. I'm loving every minute, and it's even better ... to share this with my dad, after wondering all these years what exactly it was that he was doing out here."

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However, the Wilkinsons aren't the only father-son duo to serve aboard Kearsarge.

Chief Warrant Officer Mark Bradford, the ship's boatswain, was ecstatic when he learned his son would be embarking with him.

"Serving alongside your son is a once in a lifetime experience," said Bradford. "I could not be more happy and proud. It's definitely a blessing I will remember for the rest of my life."

Bradford's son, Lance Cpl. Bradley Rollyson, who forewent the blue coveralls of his father for the green camouflage of the U.S. Marine Corps, is attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which embarked aboard Kearsarge for hurricane relief efforts.

I always wanted to follow my dad's footsteps and make him proud," said Rollyson. "I knew the Marines are one of the toughest branches, and I wanted to push myself to succeed."

Rollyson knew he was getting the opportunity of a lifetime when he first found out he would be going underway with Kearsarge.

"My father used to tell me stories about how his ship would drop off Marines and take them wherever they had to go, and when I found out I was going to be one of those Marines, I realized it was a crazy opportunity," Rollyson said. "We ended up pretty lucky, serving on a mission like this together, and when we get back, we'll be able to tell the rest of our family about what we did out here."

"While I don't always see my son around the deck plates, I know he is doing what needs to be done to support the mission," Bradford said. "And it's great to see our Navy and Marine team, which we're a part of, working together to get the job done."

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