PEARL HARBOR, HI (U.S. NAVY) - Most Americans would agree that communications are a vital part of their lives. The same is true for the U.S. Navy. Instead of using smart phones and tablets, a group of sailors stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, use the most-advanced satellite and telecommunications equipment to share vital information with sailors deployed around the world.
Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Hankerson, a 2009 Thomas Walter Josey High School graduate and native of Augusta, Georgia, has served in the Navy for nine years and is assigned to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific. As a Navy information systems technician, Hankerson is responsible for being the “computer guy” for the command and handling networks, programs and equipment.
Hankerson credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Augusta.
“I learned that there are no excuses, period,” said Hankerson. “I take responsibility seriously and learned to respect others from my father.”
NCTAMS Pacific is the center of communications for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. They provide command, control, communications, computers and intelligence connectivity to Naval and Joint forces from San Diego to Singapore and beyond. NCTAMS Pacific is the largest naval communications station in the world, known as the “Pacific Voice of Command.”
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70-percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80-percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90-percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea. The U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean.
Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means that Hankerson is serving in a part of the world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades. The Pacific is home to more than 50-percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies. Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Hankerson is most proud of two humanitarian missions in his career. Hankerson said he and his command were able to provide fresh water in the Pacific during the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes.
“The ability to provide something as basic as fresh water means that I was able to help people get something that is essential to life,” said Hankerson.
Serving in the Navy may not be continuing tradition of military service for Hankerson, but he is honored to be the first of what he hopes is a family tradition.
“I’m the first to serve,” said Hankerson. “But, I’ve been a resource to my family when they become interested in serving. I encouraged seven of my family members to join various branches of the military including my sister-in-law to my second cousin.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Hankerson and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“Supporting my family is my highest priority, and the Navy has allowed me to do that,” added Hankerson. “I will answer the call every time on time.”