Veterans Voices: John Powell

Veterans Voices
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December 25 2021 12:00 am

OHIO COUNTY, W Va. (WTRF) – If you walk into John Powell’s office, you’ll see a lot of military memorabilia. Each is somehow connected to his Navy career and each has a story. 

He collected a lot of memories over 20 years of service and fulfilled a lifelong dream along the way. 

I could tread water a lot longer than I could hold my breath, so I went to surface ships.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

From the start of his military career, John Powell knew how he wanted his service to go and it wasn’t making it a lifelong commitment.

When the Air Force recruiter steered him towards working on electronics, he decided on the Navy, first becoming an aircraft aviation bosun mate.

I was attached to a helicopter carrier, so I worked with helicopters, which have rotors on big helicopters turning. You’re trying to land a helicopter you have feet between the aircraft that you’re landing and the aircraft that’s on the deck in front of you.

When we deployed it took 10 days to two weeks to get across the Atlantic Ocean and you flew every day. You might start at 7:00 in the morning, you may not finish until midnight.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

Powell’s service at sea started on the USS Nassau. It was on his second tour with the ship that he trained in law enforcement. 

Military men and women do not enter the gates and take their horns off and put their haloes on, so there’s bad guys no matter where you go.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

Powell explained aircraft carriers with 5,000 people or more on board are like a small city, but instead of a police car to patrol in he had to walk. 

He worked anti-terrorism and all kinds of cases, but recalls one night in Lisbon as the duty security officer when he responded after a riot. 

There was three ships in port and they arrested 800 people. We had to go up to the police station and pick them up and start hauling them back, so then I woke up to find that my picture was on the front page of just about every paper.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

While in the Navy Powell also went to arson investigator school, which was a lifelong dream. 

You’re out there, that’s it. There is no help. You’re 911. You’re the help. You gotta fight to save it.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

He was also a witness to history as part of the commissioning crew of the USS George Washington. 

When I first reported to the George Washington it was in the ship yards and it didn’t have paint. The inside wasn’t painted. You were walking through a shell of a ship. They would have a commissioning ceremony and all the crew’s off the ship. They’ll pass the word to man the ship and the entire crew runs aboard the ship. So, my job during that one was I was I stood next to and stood guard for Barbara Bush.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

Powell finished the last years of his career as the Chief of Police at a naval base.

20 years in the Navy I spent 14 on ships.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

Spending so much time at sea means Powell has seen a lot of countries including Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, parts of Africa, New Zealand and the Philippines. He’s also been through the Suez Canal twice.

I tell my wife I’d like to take her somewhere I’ve never been but unfortunately in the Navy I’ve been to every port in the Caribbean.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

After not intending to make the Navy his career, Powell retired as a Chief Petty Officer, a rank he describes as an honor. He said less than 10% of people that enlist in the Navy achieve that status.

It’s one of the most memorable events of my life. I’m proud of that. Always will be.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

After military retirement Powell worked for a sheriff’s department in Virginia, running the police academy as part of the Naval Academy and eventually was on the detail for a previous Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

Powell is also very involved in the American Legion, as a past commander of Post 1 in Wheeling and a Department Commander for West Virginia.

It helps me keep a sense of purpose to help a veteran.

John Powell, Navy Veteran

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