CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface, while 80 percent of the world's population lives on or near a coastline and 90 percent of the world's commerce moves by ship.
Scattered throughout the world are strategic chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, or the Strait of Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, that need to be protected and kept open.
"That helps explain why our country needs such a strong Navy," said William Deligne, the Ansted native and WVU alumnus who directs the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier development program. "The Navy is a forward-deployed force with ships, weapons systems and sailors that need to be ready to go at a moment's notice."
Deligne, a civilian Navy employee, and Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Ronald Anthony, who grew up in Ravenswood and now operates the nuclear plant aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia, are in the state this week to raise awareness about the Navy's national security role. They are part of a new Navy 50/50 program, in which 50 Navy leaders will visit 50 U.S. cities this year to meet with community leaders, business operators, educators, veterans and members of the news media.
"The idea is to focus on cities that don't have a large Navy presence," said Deligne, who, along with Anthony, is showing the Navy's flag during 15 stops in a three-day swing through Huntington and Charleston.
Anthony, a 2002 graduate of Ravenswood High School, enlisted in the Navy after graduating from college in Indiana, in part to take advantage of program that pays down up to $75,000 of college debt.
While the traditional Navy career path for college grads involves entering the service as an officer, Anthony chose to start out as an enlisted man, and enter an officer candidate program later. "I think you learn a lot more by being an enlisted man," he said.
Anthony said the USS West Virginia, launched in 1989, is having a new nuclear core installed in its propulsion plant and will return to sea duty soon.
"The new core should last for another 20 years," he said.
The submarine's two 150-person crews include five other West Virginians, he said. "We try to do things to keep in contact with the state and help portray a good image, like working on Habitat for Humanity projects here, and taking part in the Wilderness Challenge," a military competition involving biking, running, rafting and kayaking in the New River Gorge.
While the nation's submarine fleet has ebbed somewhat since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Navy is in the process of producing two new-generation Virginia Class fast-attack submarines annually, Anthony said.
Deligne is in charge of developing the new Gerald R. Ford Class of aircraft carriers, the first of which is due for launch next summer, and should join the fleet in 2015.