With more than 320,000 active duty Navy personnel stationed at various installations worldwide, it is statistically improbable for any Sailor to be randomly assigned to a command with a childhood friend.
The improbable has happened onboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
Lt. Rodney King and Senior Chief Engineman James Walker, who grew up in small neighboring communities in rural North Carolina, knew each other since they were eight years old, attending the same church and playing sports together.
“(James) lived in Ronda, and I lived in Elkin,” said King, TR’s Flight Deck Officer. “They are in neighboring counties though they were only ten minutes apart.” said King.
“Our families knew each other. It was an extremely small community where everyone knew everyone.” said Walker, who is the senior chief engineman in the reactor department aboard the Nimitz-class carrier.
King and Walker’s trek to TR began as kids, when, on Sundays, they played basketball before their families went to church. The childhood friends grew up and, eventually, ventured away from home, beginning separate and unexpected journeys around the world in America’s Navy.
“I never thought that I would join the military,” said Walker. “One day I was just thinking about something to do instead of staying in a small town in North Carolina. I was originally going to join the Marines, but the Marine recruiter was out to lunch. So, I joined the Navy.”
Walker spent most of his career in Norfolk and advanced through the ranks to become a senior chief petty officer.
King also enlisted in the Navy, and his career took him to duty stations from Virginia to Japan, where he decided to become an officer. He applied to become a limited duty officer (LDO) four times, was accepted in 2006 and commissioned in April 2007.
The childhood friends did their best to stay in touch throughout the years because of their common beginnings.
“Senior Chief Walker and I kept in touch because not a lot of people join the Navy from where we’re from,” said King. “We had that in common. They normally either go to college or join the Army or Marines. As we progressed in rank, we kept in touch.”
The two spent more than two decades serving their country at commands that were, at times, half a world apart, not knowing their paths would soon cross again.
“When I came back from Japan, I called (Walker) and told him that I was looking for a house in the Chesapeake (Va.) area,” said King. “When I asked him what command he was at, he said, ‘Theodore Roosevelt.’ I was like, ‘No kidding! That’s where I’m going.’”
Walker and King now share the same neighborhood again, this time aboard a 90,000 ton floating city. Walker works in ship’s Reactor Department while King plies his trade in Air Department. They live about the same distance apart in Chesapeake, Va., as they did when they were children in North Carolina.
“We found it ironic that after all of these years, we would end up on the same ship,” said King.
King and Walker no longer meet up on the basketball court. They now meet on the deckplates. Both obtained successful Navy careers while taking different paths and maintaining a friendship to this day. The two friends attribute their success to their humble beginnings in rural North Carolina.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John M. Drew, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs