SAN DIEGO — A native of Burlington Junction is serving aboard one of the nation’s newest, most versatile warships, the future USS Miguel Keith.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Swinford is a 2010 West Nodaway R-I graduate, according to a news release from the U.S. Navy. According to Swinford, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Burlington Junction.
“Growing up in a very small town taught me that anything is possible,” Swinford said in the release. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
The Miguel Keith is an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship that will be commissioned by the U.S. Navy on May 8 in San Diego. Ship commissioning is a naval tradition that places a ship in active service.
Roughly 100 military officers and crew, plus 45 Military Sealift Command personnel make up the ship’s company.
Swinford is an aviation boatswain’s mate (handling) responsible for taxiing and directing aircraft both on the flight deck and hangar bay, as well as being an aircraft firefighter.
“I love the thrill and rush of moving and launching multimillion-dollar aircraft,” Swinford said.
The ship is named in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, and is the first ship to bear the name. Keith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in May 1970.
Eliadora Delores Keith, Miguel Keith’s mother, will serve as the ship’s sponsor. As part of a time-honored Navy tradition during the ceremony, she will give the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life.”
Swinford said he is most proud of being able to step into another role while serving on the Navy’s hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy.
“While underway visiting countries in dire need of our help, I was given the opportunity to serve as a medical assistant,” he said. “It was just such a great feeling and an awesome experience.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Swinford, whose uncle retired as a major in the U.S. Army.
“It is an honor to serve in the world’s greatest navy and to serve my country,” Swinford said. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Due to public health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioning will be a private event rather than the traditional public commissioning ceremony.
The event will be livestreamed to allow viewing by the general public at allhands.navy.mil/media/live-stream.