Berry serves with pride on USS George Washington

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Jason Berry was serving with United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier on September 11.
   When word came that the U.S. mainland had been attacked by terrorists, he said his reaction was no different from other Americans'.
   "Scared to death," he said.
   A Carter County native, Berry returned home on shore leave to visit family and friends. The visit was made even more special since Berry's ship will soon cross the Atlantic to participate in America's ongoing war against terrorism.
   As an aviation ordnanceman, Berry loads missiles on F-14 and F-18 aircraft when their pilots take to the sky for combat missions.
   "The job is very important to me," said Berry, a graduate of Hampton High School. "It has made me more responsible."
   The George Washington will depart on June 23 to the Mediterranean to relieve the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, he said.
   Once in the Mediterranean, the George Washington will provide combat air support for Operation Enduring Freedom. A prospect that Berry admits is "scary."
   Berry says the events of Sept. 11 and the nation's ongoing war against terror have not deterred him.
   "I don't regret it," he said of his enlistment. "It's an opportunity to serve my country."
   The son of Brian and Paula Berry, Jason Berry signed on to serve a four-year term in the Navy just over one year ago.
   After graduating from boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago, Berry spent three months in Pensacola, Fla., training to become an aviation ordnance operator.
   He later deployed with the Nimitz class aircraft carrier George Washington -- a floating city of steel manned by over 6,000 sailors.
   "We've been to Italy...to France, and all over the East Coast," he said. "The toughest thing about being at sea is missing home."
   Berry said he hoped to attend the Navy's air crew school that would allow him to become a crewman with combat helicopters.
   Once his four years are completed, Berry said he wanted to return to Elizabethton and become a recruiter for the Navy.
   He said his own experiences with the Navy have made him a believer that military service provided a way to finance an educational future and defend the nation's freedom.
   "I'd tell them that you have a way to earn money for college and serve your country," he said.