Kingman Native serves in Navy aboard ‘Strength from the Sea’

SAN DIEGO – A 2011 Kingman High School graduate and Kingman native is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, USS Carl Vinson.

Seaman Recruit Nicholas Weist is a culinary specialist aboard the San-Diego based ship, the third Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only 11 operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today.

As a culinary specialist, Weist is responsible for planning, preparing and serving meals for nearly 5,000 sailors every day, as well as preparing desserts and baking cakes for retirements, reenlistments and other special events.

Weist has carried lessons learned from his hometown into his military service.

“Growing up I learned to keep looking forward and don’t let your past define who you are,” he said. “This applies every day in the Navy. If you have a bad day, don’t let it influence you. Keep pushing forward and don’t let it break you down.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Vinson. Approximately 3,000 men and women make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the aircraft carrier running. They do everything from preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Additionally, another 2,000 sailors comprise the air wing. These are the people who fly and maintain the aircraft embarked aboard the ship.

Vinson, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 60 attack fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.

Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship, and those planes land upon their return to the aircraft carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes Vinson a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, often the first response to a global crisis because of an aircraft carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

The ship was commissioned in 1982 and named after former Georgia Congressman, Carl Vinson. A member of the United States House of Representatives for 50 years, he was, for 29 years, the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and Armed Services Committee.  Vinson was the principal sponsor of the so-called “Vinson Acts,” culminating in the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940, which provided for the massive naval shipbuilding effort in World War II.

“Carl Vinson was a visionary congressman,” said Capt. Douglas Verissimo, commanding officer of USS Carl Vinson. “His support led to a stronger Navy that was pivotal in winning World War II and the Cold War. Our Sailors embody his commitment to service and bring to life a warship that has been an enduring asset to America’s defense for more than 35 years.”

Weist has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“I had many family members who served in different branches in the military,” he said. “I’ve got a good heritage with my whole family and what they’ve accomplished in the service, but I also believe I’m making my own path for my career and my life.”

Weist’s proudest accomplishment was completing boot camp.

“It wasn’t easy but it was one of my best accomplishments. While there was some negative influence and others suggesting I wouldn’t finish, this actually encouraged me to push forward and finish what I started,” he said.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Weist and other Vinson sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Serving in the Navy means serving my country and protecting the ones I love. I will always serve my country. The military helps me do it in a different way that allows Americans to live another day,” Weist said.