SAN DIEGO — A 2011 Bradley Central High School graduate from Cleveland, is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Blach is an aviation maintenance administrationman aboard the San Diego-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only ten operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today.
Named in honor of former President Ronald Reagan, the carrier is longer than three football fields, at nearly 1,100 feet long. The ship is 252 feet wide and weighs more than 100,000 tons. Two nuclear reactors can push the ship through the water at nearly 35 mph.
Blach said his mind was set on the Navy as his career path choice early in life.
“It is something I wanted to do since I was really young,” said Blach. “My grandfather took me to an air show and at that moment I knew I would work in the military.”
“The Navy has been exactly what I knew it would be in my life,” said Blach. “It has helped me mature and accomplish things that I didn’t know I could.”
Blach plans to move forward to an officer program as a pilot.
“I come from a military family and they are very proud of me,” Blach added.
He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew, pro-tecting America on the world’s oceans.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Ronald Reagan. Approximately 3,000 men and wom-en make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 or so form the air wing, the people who actually fly and maintain the aircraft.
“I never cease to be impressed with the type and quality of work that goes on aboard the carrier each day,” said Capt. Christopher E. Bolt, the carrier’s commanding officer. “Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults - in many cases, 19 and 20 years old - and they’re out here launching and recovering aircraft, running a complex propulsion system safely, serving as air traffic controllers, operating sophisticated electronics, and keeping this floating city alive and functioning. Their work ethic, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps are second to none. If you pick up a newspaper in any city and examine what other 19- and 20-year-olds are doing, there is no com-parison to the level of responsibility our Sailors hold. That caliber of Sailor is what has earned us the title of America’s Flagship.”
USS Ronald Reagan, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. The ship carries more than 60 attack 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. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes the Ronald Reagan a self-contained mobile airport, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to oper-ate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Blach and other USS Ronald Reagan sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“I want to thank my teachers from back home for pushing me in the right direction and if people at home want to know why I serve, visit the Chattanooga National Cemetery,” said Blach.