For Franklin grad, military’s in his blood

Ever since he was in sixth grade, Dalton Slinger knew he wanted to join the

U.S. Navy.

When he enlisted three years ago, Slinger, 22, became the fourth-generation Navyman in his family, following his uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather’s example.

It was his turn to continue the family tradition, Slinger said.

Slinger was one of two people in his 2011 Franklin Community High School graduating class of about 350 students to join the Navy and recently finished his first deployment to the Middle East. Slinger has fulfilled two years of his five-year contract and plans to re-enlist for another three years.

For the last nine months, Slinger has lived on the USS George H.W. Bush. As a 3rd class aviation ordnanceman, Slinger and about 25 others are responsible for loading up the planes on the aircraft carrier with supplies, like ammunition, before the jets take flight.

His team is split into a day shift and night shift, and takes care of 10 to 15 jets on the carrier. The jets they help send off provide backup support for other military in the area or, in recent months, that bomb members of the Islamic State group.

Typically Slinger would spend 35 to 40 days at sea on the carrier, but when the Islamic State group was recognized by the U.S. in August, they were on the water for about 60 days. About 5,000 soldiers were on board with Slinger while the carrier was deployed.

When deployed, life focuses around eating, working, sleeping and doing that cycle all over again, Slinger said.

In his work, flight plans could change in an instant, which requires him to refill the plane with all necessary supplies at a moment’s notice.

Slinger describes his job as mostly manual labor, but he has had experiences there he likely couldn’t have had otherwise, he said.

He got the chance to see exotic locations, including visiting the Acropolis in Athens and stops in Turkey and Dubai. While the carrier is docked in a port, soldiers have full days to explore the area before returning to the ship, he said.

But being away from family and friends has been an adjustment for Slinger and his family. While on the USS George H.W. Bush, Slinger can have packages delivered to the carrier but only have access to a phone and email during deployment.

Before enlisting, Slinger lived in his parents’ home where he talked to them on a daily basis. Once he started basic boot camp, family members were not able to hear from him for more than two weeks, his father David Slinger said. Slowly, they have adjusted to not hearing from Slinger for weeks at a time, though he recently got to visit his parents over Thanksgiving, David Slinger said.

The Slinger File

Name: Dalton Slinger

Age: 22

Residence: Norfolk, Virginia

Education: Franklin Community High School, Class of 2011

Career: 3rd Class Aviation Ordnanceman in the U.S. Navy