Petty officer 2nd class, left, assists a sailor in her supervisory position aboard the USS George Washington, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier permanently deployed in the west Pacific Ocean.
ALBANY — Just after graduating from Westover High School, Hope Pruitt knew she had to make a plan for her life. The year was 2003 and the trade tower attacks were fresh in her mind.
She thought of military service. Her brother, Raymond Zachery, had joined the U.S. Army and gone to Iraq. He seemed to like it fine.
“I had family in the Army, and I wanted to do something different,” Pruitt said “Plus, I get to serve my country and see the world at the same time.”
Pruitt is presently thousands of miles away, deployed in the western Pacific on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Dave Hecht, public affairs officer of the George Washington, Pruitt is a Petty Officer 2nd class and one of only 473 women out of 5,500 on the vessel. She’s an Aviation Administrator, charged with helping to maintain the multi-million dollar jet aircraft launched daily from the carrier, Hecht said. Pruitt supervises as many as 12 other sailors.
“She’s a standout sailor and someone Albany can take pride in.” Hecht said. “She works her butt off on 12-hour shifts, six days a week.”
Pruitt served four years on the USS Ronald Reagan, but this is a different kind of ship. Out of 11 carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet, the George Washington is the only one which is permanently deployed, Hecht said.
Home based at the U.S. Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan, the carrier never returns to the United States.
“Sailors on other carriers may be deployed for up to six months or so,” Hecht said, “then return to a U.S. port. Those who serve on the GW may be deployed for two, three or even five years.”
Hecht said that even though the carrier will return to port in Japan every few months, the sailors must pay their own way if they want to fly home. The cost of that is prohibitive for most, he said.
So far, Pruitt has seen port in countries such as Australia, Malaysia, and North and South Korea, as well as Japan.
Pruitt’s parents, Ronnie Lee and Jacquelyn Pruitt, are proud of their daughter’s independence and her accomplishments.
“We’re really proud of all our children,” Jacquelyn Pruitt said. “They all did real good growing up. We never had to go to the jail house or anything. I’m especially proud of my baby, Hope.”
Pruitt says that her mom and dad appreciate the souvenirs she sends from the countries she visits. Her dad is collecting ball caps.
Pruitt enjoys being in the Navy, she said, and plans to make a career of it.
“I haven’t run across anything bad about what I’m doing,” she said. “Nothing major, anyway. Every day there’s something different.”