By Rear Adm. Barry L. Bruner
Director, Programming Division, N80
Last week I was afforded the honor of promoting one of our officers in the Programming Division of OPNAV (N80). This time however, the promotion ceremony was significantly different from the past few we have done.
CDR Sam Brasfield is an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer. Prior-enlisted, he has served in the Navy for more than twenty years and is one of the many great Americans that I have the honor of serving with in OPNAV. Sam asked if we could do the promotion in front of family and friends at the Orange Community Airport and follow the ceremony with a joint skydiving effort. The last time I jumped out of an airplane was 1978 – when I was still in my teens. I jumped twice back then, both times in the old round chutes. I did not like it. Twice was enough for me and I had never intended to jump again (call me dumb but not stupid!). But how could you say no to a request like Sam’s?
When I walked into the hangar I met a group of mostly active duty and former service members. I met a former Army EOD tech who was badly injured in the Middle East but still liked to hang around with his EOD buddies. He skydived – even though with only one eye his depth perception makes the landings a bit difficult and his other injuries require a special chute. I met others – Marines, Army and Navy veterans. I shook each of those great Americans’ hands with honor, glad to be included as one of them – even if only for a couple of hours.
We promoted Sam Brasfield to Commander, then climbed into a twin-engine Otter, climbed to 12,000 feet and stepped outside. I was tethered to Chief Ron Condrey, another member of the EOD community, and he made this, my third jump, seem easy. I’m still not sure I liked it, but it was far better than the two jumps I remember as a teen.
As I drove away a few minutes later I considered the oath Sam had taken an hour or so before:
“I do solemnly swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. To bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation – or purpose of evasion. And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to embark. So help me God.”
Each of those that were there – Sam’s friends, they had all taken that oath – or one similar. And that oath, its intent – to protect the ideal we call America, is branded on their very souls. For over a decade now they have truly given their lives, again and again, to the defense of our nation. They come from all walks of life, from every state and from every race. They have fought and many of them have seen their best friends die, have lost pieces of themselves (both physical and mental) in the process.
For some of us in the military, we have been the fortunate ones that although we have taken the oath too – we have not yet had to go into battle. But every time we pull in our uniform, we take that oath. Each time our ship slips away from the pier – we take that oath.
That promotion ceremony reminded me of how fortunate I have been, and still am – to be serving with the likes of my Navy shipmates. To those that have taken the oath – Thank You.