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Honoring our Heroes

Captain Jerry L. Gantt, Naval Aviator

Captain Jerry L. Gantt served five years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and 25 years in the Naval Air Reserve. His Navy Designator was 1325, Naval Flight Officer. His military medals, decorations and awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with gold star, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy "E" Ribbon (five awards), National Defense Medal with bronze star, Humanitarian Service Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon with two bronze stars and Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Mobilization device and silver hourglass.

CAPT Gantt was born July 3, 1945, to his parents, Lloyd and Dorothy Gantt, and he was reared at Slapout, AL, a rural community in Elmore County. He graduated Valedictorian from Holtville High School in 1963 and from Auburn University with a B.A. Degree in Journalism in 1967. While at Auburn, he held leadership positions in Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Young Republican and the Auburn Press Club.

His military career began with Officer Candidate School at Newport, RI, for four months where he was commissioned an Ensign August 18, 1967. He completed Basic Preflight aviation training and Naval Flight Officer School at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL, and Advance Navigation training at NAS Corpus Christi, TX. This was followed by Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) training at NAS Norfolk, VA, and Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30) at NAS Patuxent River, MD. He then joined his operational fleet squadron, Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16), homeported at NAS Jacksonville, FL, in February 1969 along with four former Auburn classmates. They changed the VP-16 mascot from the "Eagles" to the "War Eagles," a designation that remains to this day.

At VP-16, he was assigned collateral duties as Public Affairs Officer and Assistant Administrative Officer and assigned as Tactical Coordinator for a P-3A "Orion" ASW patrol plane aircrew directing 12 officers and enlisted personnel. He deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tracking the first Soviet nuclear submarine detected in the Gulf of Mexico and also to the Maritime Patrol School at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, NATO exercises out of Norway and routine ASW missions from Bermuda, the Azores and Sigonella, Sicily.

In December 1971, CAPT Gantt was released from active duty and pursued a Master of Arts in Journalism and Communications Degree from the University of Florida. He affiliated with the Naval Air Reserve at Jacksonville, FL, and he was assigned to Patrol Squadron 62 (VP-62) where he served in every department including three department head positions. During his 13 years in the reserve squadron, he deployed to Rota, Spain, Kindley Field, Bermuda and Lajes Field in the Azores. He accumulated more than 3,600 flight hours as Tactical Coordinator in the P-3A/B "Orion" maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

He was transferred to Volunteer Training Unit 7474 (VTU-7474) in April 1985 and served as Seapower Department Head until selected as Commanding Officer of Naval Air Facility Mayport augment unit (NAF 0174) in February 1987. In August 1988, he returned to VTU-7474 as Chief Staff Officer. He joined the local team of Command Excellence Seminar facilitators and conducted the senior leadership course annually. His active duty for training (AT) assignments included tours as a student and later as exercise controller with the National Defense University's Reserve Components National Security Course, Congressional liaison duty with the Chief of Naval Operations Plans and Programs Office in the Pentagon and studies at the Naval War College at Newport, RI.

CAPT Gantt was recalled to active duty in 1991 to serve as Project RESTAR (Reserve Transition and Recognition) Officer for Naval Air Reserve Jacksonville to assist reservists mobilized during Operation Desert Storm. He designed and implemented a program to monitor the welfare, safe return, and public recognition of more than 400 deployed reservists and organized welcome home media coverage. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal and Letters of Commendation for his innovative performance of duty in this endeavor. He assumed command of VTU-7474 in October 1991 where he was responsible for employment of upwards of 50 senior officers in support of Naval Air Reserve Jacksonville and its augment and sustaining units. CAPT Gantt retired from 30+ years of military service September 1, 1997.

While serving in the Naval Air Reserve, CAPT Gantt worked at Jacksonville University as Director of Publications where he managed production of all campus publications 1980-1984. He earned a Master of Business Administration Degree from Jacksonville University while employed there. He later served as VP Marketing at Jax Navy Federal Credit Union which is now Vystar Credit Union 1986-1990. He worked as Assistant VP Marketing for Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation 1993-1997 serving as communications strategist and national product manager for a portfolio of mortgage products designed to manage the liability side of clients' investment balance sheet.

After CAPT Gantt's military retirement, he returned to Montgomery as a research and writing specialist at the Air Force Research Institute at Maxwell AFB for more than 10 years serving as content editor for Strategic Studies Quarterly, the Air Force's flagship academic journal. As project manager, he coordinated the content editing, copy editing, quality assurance and graphic production team. He also edited topline books such as Professor Colin Gray's Airpower for Strategic Effect, William Arkin's Divining Victory and Phillip Meilinger's Bomber, a history of the Strategic Air Command. He completed course work for a Ph.D. degree in public policy from Auburn University and was named to Phi Alpha Alpha honorary.

CAPT Gantt is a member of First United Methodist Church of Montgomery where he has served as an usher, greeter, Sunday School president, speaker and delegate to the Southeast Jurisdiction Heritage Foundation Commission. His former wives are now deceased, and he has no children. His interests include photography and world travel.

CAPT Gantt's conclusions about his military service: "The freedom that we enjoy is not free. That is a cliché, but it is very true. I never saw combat, but we served as a frontline deterrent during the Cold War. It was very rewarding working with such outstanding men and women who were willing to give up a weekend a month and two weeks during their summers. I had some wonderful people working with me. I wish that I could do it all over. I am ready to go. Send me!"


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