SHREVEPORT, La. (NNS) -- Cmdr. Robert Lightfoot, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), returned to his childhood home to share his life experiences during Shreveport/Bossier City Navy Week.
Although he was born in Michigan, Lightfoot still considers himself a Shreveport native, having spent his teenage years growing up there and attending Captain Shreve High School, class of 1995.
"For me they were some of the best years of my life,” Lightfoot said. "A lot of my best memories are camping and going with the Boy Scouts on a national scout jamboree."
During his return to Shreveport, Lightfoot visited his alma mater, taking a stroll down memory lane while meeting his former principle, Dr. Sandra McCalla, whom he embraced with a hug, and reunited with his former JROTC rifle team coach, retired Army Master Sgt., Cole Elbra, before taking time to address the current students.
“He was involved in just about everything we did here. He and I got pretty close. I coached him on the rifle team, there are six members to a team, so I would teach him to shoot and take him to competitions, so we got pretty close,” said Elbra. “You learn all their good points and bad points, and he was always a guy that stood out, very intelligent, a quick learner, he was always there ready to go that extra mile.”
“I was in JROTC during my time here. In fact, I still keep in touch with a couple of my ROTC instructors. It’s always been good to keep those contacts and I think a lot about what they taught me along the way, the 14 traits, the principles of leadership, those are eternal,” said Lightfoot. “I fall back on a lot of those principles that I got right here at Captain Shreve High.”
Lightfoot graduated the United States Naval Academy in 1996 as a surface warfare officer, though that was not his first choice.
“I wanted to be an astronaut, after doing some research I found that being a Navy pilot seemed like the best route,” said Lightfoot. “I found that the Naval Academy produced more astronauts then any other undergraduate institutions, so I went there.”
While in the Naval Academy, Lightfoot was unable to get medically cleared to become a pilot, so he was forced into an alternate career path.
“After going through my alternatives, I picked surface warfare. I didn’t know I would fall in love with it at the time, but I did,” said Lightfoot. “I love being out at sea and I love working with some of the greatest American’s you will ever meet on the ship.”
Even though his dreams may have been dashed, Lightfoot was able to make the most of it, though having a wife and four children, he finds shipboard life challenging.
“Being a husband and a father is the best thing I've done in my life, It is very hard; I've been away from home more than I've been home. I think the hardest part for me is seeing how hard it is for them,” Lightfoot said. “My wife is a rock star and she holds it all together when I'm gone in addition to working a full time job. I truly don't know how she does it.”
Current Captain Shreve High School principal Ginger Gustavson was very appreciative of Lightfoot coming home and visiting his alma mater.
“We are so blessed to call you Shreve family, class of ’95,” said Gustavson. “We are absolutely honored and blessed that you came back today to spend time with us and tell us your story. I can’t thank you enough.”
Elbra was so moved by Lightfoot’s visit, he felt obligated to come speak to his former student.
“I haven’t seen him in years so when I heard he was coming I had to come see him. He’s doing pretty well for himself.,” said Elbra. “He always wanted to be a pilot, he always talked about that, but I guess he went the sea route with the Navy.”
During his Navy Week visit, Lightfoot also conducted an on Scene Interview with local ABC affiliate KTBS 3, met with Shreveport mayor Ollie Tyler, visited the Veterans Administration, took tours of the Cyber Innovation Center and Caddo-Bossier Port Facility, met with the Norwela Boy Scout Council, attended a breakfast with the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, and facilitated a ‘Navy the Nation Needs’ brief for the Shreveport Rotary Club,
Since 2005, the Navy Week program has served as the Navy's principal outreach effort in the areas of the country without a significant naval presence. More than 210 Navy Weeks have been held in 74 different U.S. cities.
For more information about Navy Week Shreveport / Bossier City Navy Week, visit www.outreach.navy.mil, or follow the hashtag #NavyWeek.