Abu Swafford has worked hard to give back to his community.
The 1995 Cleveland High School graduate played football, basketball and was a member of the track team. Swafford maintained high grades, then graduated and joined the Navy.
“I hold the title has a ‘plank owner’ because I was a part of the first crew to man this ship after the Navy accepted it from Bath, Maine Ship Yard. The ship was brand new to the fleet. Back in those days, we had all the latest technologies in terms of Aegis Guided Missiles and other defensive systems,” Swafford said.
Swafford reached the rank of E5 yeoman.
After being stationed in the nation's capital for awhile, Swafford boarded the USS Sullivans.
All the new technology sparked his interest.
“It was there I began to have interest in computer technologies, mainly because all my friends were IT (Information Technology Systems Technicians) or ETs (Electronics Technician),” he said.
After four years of active duty and another two years in the Naval Reserves, Swafford returned home to Cleveland and went to work for Cleveland Utilities.
At first, his job didn't have much to do with his Navy experiences, but with just a little patience and time, he began to utilize his knowledge in the Internet Technology and Systems Analyst departments.
He is now the network administrator and based at the Bradley County 911 Center where he helps keep the complex 911 system going. That includes phones, computers and emergency radio communications with law enforcement, fire and medical services as well as other agencies.
“I’ve been at it at the 911 Center for the past 14 years and it is an honor and privilege to be in this role where behind the scenes I get to help the residents of Bradley County and Cleveland,” Swafford said. “I take pride in the system updates and upgrades.”
He added, “I’ve been a part of mainly moving the center to NG911(Next Generation 911) where in the near future we will be able to send and receive IP (Internet Protocal) based calls, text messages, and video calls for emergencies.”
The NG911 move will allow complex phone lines to be reduced down to one simple cable.
When he isn't doing his work, Swafford works with children.
“In my spare time I’m very active in the community,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure of serving as vice president of the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP and vice president and president of the 100 Black Men of Bradley County.”
Swafford said his stepfather, Willie Brice, was his mentor.
Swafford recently took on a new venture as a board member with Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland.
“I’m still learning what all they do,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of this group that looks to help move families from renting to home ownership.”
His philosophy has been simple — to work hard and pass what he has learned to others, including his children and their children.
Swafford has a passion working as a mentor and helping provide student scholarships with 100 Black Men, building a community or taking care of the 911 service systems.
Swafford is also a member of Hiwassee Lodge 31, Chapter of Prince Hall Masons.
The lodge also has community programs and a focus on youth.
“There is an old saying, ‘It takes a Village to Raise a Child.’ That really touches me and I feel we all are role models and we all have to make sure we protect and guide the leaders of tomorrow,” Swafford said.