Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Lyon, a Winston-Salem native and 2010 Oak Hill Academy graduate, is serving aboard USS Somerset, a 105-foot wide, 684-feet long, 25,000 ton ship that moves 24 miles-per-hour thanks to its four diesel engines. The ship is named for Somerset County, Pa., where one of the hijacked Sept. 11 airplanes crashed. USS Somerset’s sister ships, USS New York and Arlington, also commemorate 9/11.
Lyon is a culinary specialist aboard the San Diego-based ship. As a sailor who plans to make the Navy a career, Lyon said he continues to learn about himself as a leader, sailor and a person. He added that he enjoys the hospitality shared as a culinary specialist.
“We prepare almost 1,100 meals a day for the ship’s crew. Great meals — it’s an incredible accomplishment,” he said.
He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Somerset’s 361-member crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans.
“It’s an honor to be a member of one of the 9/11 ships,” Lyons said. “My dad has an uncle who survived the collapse of the trade centers.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Somerset. Approximately 28 officers, 333 enlisted men and women and 3 Marines make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the engines. Another 700-800 or so form the Embarked Landing Force, the Marines and their equipment.
“A ship is but a steel vessel, it is the crew that brings a ship to life. USS Somerset is truly a fine warship and this crew that mans her is second to none. The Sailors and Marines of Somerset have been working diligently to prepare this war ship. Through our service in the United States Navy, we will strive to honor those who have sacrificed so much to preserve the freedoms we cherish today,” said Capt. Thomas L. Dearborn, the ship’s commanding officer.
Amphibious transport dock ships like the USS Somerset are warships that embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions. They are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies by embarked air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing craft and Expeditionary Fighting
Vehicles (EFV) or Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft (MV 22). These ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile combat ships, Lyon and other USS Somerset sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“Joining the Navy has been worth every minute. I would tell anyone to try and get in. Don’t be discouraged,” Lyon said.