St. Petersburg native serves aboard Navy warship in Norfolk


Photo Credit: Navy/Dustin Good

NORFOLK, Va – A St. Petersburg, Florida, native and 2014 Boca Ciega High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Kearsarge.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Morris Cooper is an Air Traffic Controller aboard the amphibious transport dock operating out of Norfolk.

Kearsarge, one of the Navy’s most advanced amphibious ships, is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts.

A Navy Air Traffic Controller is responsible for the safe and expeditious control of naval aircraft.

“My father always said 'don’t be a follower, be a leader',” Cooper said. “I was into producing my own music. I joined the Navy to do something important that would be beneficial as a civilian after serving.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Kearsarge. More than 400 men and women make up the ship's crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 700 Marines can be embarked. USS Kearsarge is capable of transporting Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and landing craft.

"The success of our Surface Force ships is measured by our ability to provide Fleet Commanders with combat naval power at sea and to project that power ashore where and when it matters," said Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander, Naval Surface Forces. "It's hard work to ready ships for combat operations at sea - it takes the talent of an entire crew working well together. I'm extremely proud of the each and every surface warrior's contributions to the Navy's enduring mission of protecting and defending America, at home and around the world."

These amphibious transport dock ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

Cooper has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My cousin was in the Air Force,” Cooper said.

Cooper’s proudest accomplishment was giving a speech to fellow crewmembers, while in Puerto Rico during hurricane Irma relief efforts, on the topic of USS Kearsarge history.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Cooper and other USS Kearsarge sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Serving in the Navy has helped me learn about responsibility,” Cooper said. “A lot of different types of people on this ship come together to get the job done when we’re needed. This ship has the capabilities to do a lot of different things.”

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