2015-06-24 / News

DROPPING BOMBS IS HIS BUSINESS

By Elizabeth Billips


Aldriick Kittles builds an AIP Pylon for P-3 Orion aircraft.The gear holds maverick missiles and data surveillance pods. Aldriick Kittles builds an AIP Pylon for P-3 Orion aircraft.The gear holds maverick missiles and data surveillance pods. It's all about the bombs.

Waynesboro native Aldriick Kittles, 21, spends his days at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Jacksonville.

As his three-year anniversary with the Navy rolls around on July 16, the 2012 Burke County high school grad is riding high on his new promotion to Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class.

The same methodical mind that helped him become a star safety on the Bears’ 2011 State Championship football team has made him a proficient builder of bomb release units for the Navy’s surveillance aircraft and helicopters.

Some of the nation’s top fighter pilots rely on Kittles to make sure their gear is flawless when they release missiles, rockets, bombs and sonobuoys.

While the pressure could be consuming, Kittles revels in it.


Aldriick Kittles has received a number of high honors in his three years with the Navy, including the Naval and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service ribbons, the Navy Rifle Marksmanship ribbon and the Navy Pistol Marksmanship ribbon. He was recently promoted to Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class, which is an E-5 ranking. Aldriick Kittles has received a number of high honors in his three years with the Navy, including the Naval and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service ribbons, the Navy Rifle Marksmanship ribbon and the Navy Pistol Marksmanship ribbon. He was recently promoted to Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class, which is an E-5 ranking. “I get a lot of discipline, professionalism and accountability through these responsibilities,” he said after a morning spent teaching junior sailors how to repair and build gear and armament systems.

But the young sailor is hungry for more.

Come August, he plans to sign on for six more years.

While the $30,000 reenlistment bonus was a tempter, it’s all about the long haul for Kittles.

“I want to further my technical knowledge,” he said, eyeing his next promotion to Aviation Ordnanceman First Class. “It would be a chance to switch over to the commissioned side of the Navy … to be a Navy Officer.”

Already, Kittles has a lot under his belt.

Barely out of high school, he crossed the Mediterranean Sea working aboard the LSD 43 USS Fort McHenry, the enormous dock landing ship currently deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S. 5 Fleet.

Those three years of service were distinguished by a number of honors, including the Naval and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. And all the while, Kittles has been plugging away at his bachelor’s degree in music business. The free college, he said, is another big bonus of choosing to stay on active duty.

With six more years to set himself apart, Kittles is driven by what he has lost and left behind in Burke County.

He thinks of his hometown every day amongst the great machines and vast sea that have become his new home.

As the fighter planes cut straight lines above the Atlantic, his mind turns to his best friend and Bears’ teammate, Denzell " Snake" Warthen, who died in a wreck three weeks before they would have graduated together. His heart is heavy, then light, as he thinks of his grandmother, Willie Lee Anthony, and how proud she had been before she died last summer.

Losing Snake, he said, turned him away from the familiar and gave him the courage to leave. Losing his grandmother fired his determination to push even harder.

“When I think of home, they are who I think of,” Kittles said. “Those two inspire me to go above and beyond in everything I do.”

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