Taking care of a floating city|Brewton native watches over 4,500 sailors
Published 1:43 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Brewton native Tisha “Drayon” Smith has put her Southern hospitality to work for the U.S. Navy — and she is helping boost the morale of thousands of sailors deployed in support of the war in Afghanistan.
Lt. Cmdr. Smith, who graduated from T.R. Miller High School in 1987, is a supply services officer on the USS Ronald Reagan, currently deployed in the Gulf of Oman. She is responsible for everything from meals to laundry for the 4,500 sailors on board the ship.
Overseeing the services for the ship is no small task. The USS Ronald Reagan has six galleys — or kitchens — a barbershop, two ship stores, a library, vending machines, laundry rooms — you name it.
Smith joked that her role is similar to the cast members of the TV show “The Love Boat.” In fact, she tries to plan special events for the sailors to keep their spirits up — movie nights, “So You Think You Can Dance” competitions, ice cream socials.
Smith is also responsible for ordering supplies, and the ship’s four gyms.
With so much under her purview, Smith stays busy most of the time — too busy, she said, to worry about the dangers of serving so close to Afghanistan. The USS Ronald Reagan has 61 aircraft, launching a third of the jets that make missions into Afghanistan, Flanders said.
Smith said she enjoys being behind the scenes. The largest division she oversees is food services, with 200 sailors working for her.
In addition to the three main meals, the USS Ronald Reagan also prepares food for special events, such as crew appreciation dinners or meals for visiting dignitaries.
Supplies are flown in via helicopter or from another ship, and are ordered from “the closest area of civilization,” Smith said.
While she admitted that there are times she gets homesick, Smith said her fellow sailors keep her going.
Smith, the daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. H.K. Matthews, has served in the military for 18 years, and it’s a career she began preparing for in high school.
Smith got her start in the military in the U.S. Air Force, then joined the U.S. Navy in 1997.
Smith credits family in Brewton for their support and inspiration, particularly her grandfather Calvin Avant Sr.
But Smith ultimately credits her success to her faith as well.