Dublin Man Commands Nation’s 
Newest Aircraft Carrier

A sense of service, that is Bill Goodwin’s reward for going on the carrier deck, climbing into the cockpit of a jet fighter, or teaching military tactics to America’s finest young men and women for most of the last myriad of days. After twenty-seven years of serving his country, Captain John William “Bill” Goodwin, a native of Dublin, Georgia, today commands America’s newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, one of the largest ships in the history of the United States Navy and only one of thirteen carriers in the fleet.

Bill Goodwin was born in Dublin in 1953.  His parents, John and Mary Goodwin bought their home at 213 West Drive, known today as the Virginia Lawrence home, just before Christmas of 1950, a couple of years after they first came to Dublin.  John Goodwin was a radiologist at the Dublin VA Hospital, while Mary worked as a secretary in the office of the stockyards of M.H. Hogan & Company.   Captain Goodwin attended Mrs. Mildred Youngblood’s kindergarten on Rosewood Drive, just a little more than a block away from his home.  He remembered going to the first two grades at Central Elementary, where his teachers were Mrs. Henrietta Lindsey and Mrs. Mason.  Among his vivid memories of Dublin in the late 1950s were eating at Brown’s Restaurant, going to Stinson’s grocery, and fishing in the Oconee River and  creeks and ponds all over the county.  Like most of us who grew up in the Fifties and Sixties, Goodwin remembers being able to ride his bike all over town without his parents worrying about his safety and that none of us ever locked our doors unless we went out of town.

The Goodwin family moved to Jackson, Mississippi in 1960 after Bill had completed the second grade.  By the time Bill had reached high school, the family was stationed in Washington, D.C.   Bill had been out to the Dublin airport and had seen the Pipers and the Cessnas flying overhead, but it was during that time that Bill first began to seriously consider flying airplanes as a career.  Goodwin attended the University of South Carolina, where he received a commission as a naval officer in 1975.

Goodwin, like many military pilots of his day, saw himself serving his requisite term in the military and then taking a much more lucrative job flying commercial airliners.  “When I got my first assignment in a squadron, we were still trying to get over the war in Vietnam,” Goodwin remembered.  But then as the 1980s began, things in the military began to change.  The election of a new President, Ronald Reagan, began a change in the military, their morale and their funding.

Captain Goodwin, who has been associated with nearly half of the carriers in today’s fleet,  takes special pride in the fact that he is the commander of a ship named in honor of former president, Ronald Reagan.  “I guess you can say that I am a product of the Reagan administration,” said Goodwin.  “The Eighties brought pay raises and first rate equipment,” stated the Captain as  his reason for remaining in the Navy.   The Captain feels another special, but bittersweet,  connection with President Reagan, a connection which was highlighted a few weeks ago when Captain Goodwin led a celebration of Reagan’s ninety first birthday aboard the U.S.S. Reagan.  Like Reagan, Goodwin’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, before his death, seven years ago.

Bill Goodwin began his naval career as a naval officer, just after he completed his Navy R.O.T.C. training at the University of South Carolina.  In February of 1977, Goodwin completed his flight training and earned his wings as a Naval Aviator.  After completing two deployments to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean as a part of Carrier Air Wing Seven and the U.S.S. Dwight Eisenhower flying A7E Corsairs in Attack Squadron 66, Goodwin began instructing pilots to fly the TA-4J Skyhawk.  In 1983, he was assigned as the Catapult and Arresting Gear officer, aboard the carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington.  Goodwin earned his Master of Science degree at the Naval Postgraduate School, before transitioning to the F-18 Hornet in June 1987.  

During the first eighteen years of his career, Goodwin primarily flew the A-7 Corsair, an attack bomber, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the famed F-18 Hornet.  Goodwin will tell you that the F-18 Hornet is the same one that the Blue Angels fly, but his was painted gray.  One day while at an air show, Goodwin was approached by a woman wanting to know when he was going to his jet fighter painted blue like the ones flown by the Blue Angels.  “She thought the gray was just a primer coat,” chuckled

Goodwin was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 25 where he served as Safety, Administrative, Operations, and Maintenance Officer.  He served in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean as a part of Carrier Air Wing Fourteen and the U.S.S. Constellation.   Goodwin’s first command of a squadron came in August 1992 when he assumed command of Strike Fighter Squadron 94 after a short stint as Executive Officer.  Goodwin returned to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean in June 1993 serving as a part of Carrier Air Wing Eleven and the carrier, U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  In March 1995, Captain Goodwin completed his second master’s degree when he received his Master of Arts Degree from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Goodwin went on to study nuclear propulsion before taking an assignment aboard the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.   “Carl Vinson was a true friend to the Navy,” commented Goodwin about the Congressman who served in the House of Representatives for more than fifty years.  Ironically, the same veteran’s hospital where his father worked a half century ago, is also named for Congressman Vinson. Goodwin feels that being aboard the Vinson gave him a closer connection to home in Middle Georgia.  “Last Veteran’s Day I was honored to speak at the Veteran’s Day ceremonies at the Georgia War Veteran’s home in Milledgeville, Congressmen Vinson’s hometown,” said Goodwin.  “I felt like it was a homecoming by the way I was treated by the people of Milledgeville,” Goodwin said.  “A couple from Dublin came up to me and said that they saw in the newspaper that I was going to be speaking and just wanted to come,” Goodwin fondly remembered.  “I was honored when they asked me to present Korean War medals to six veterans,” Goodwin said. Goodwin served as Executive Officer aboard the Carl Vinson from October 1996 to April 1998.  Goodwin went aboard the Vinson just before it returned from operations in the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf.  During 1997, the Vinson became the last carrier to launch and recover the A6-E Intruder.

Goodwin in June 1998 assumed command of the U.S.S. Rainier, which completed a six-month battle group deployment to the Arabian Gulf in May 1999.  The Rainier was based out of Bremerton, Washington and provided combat support by supplying fuel, food, ammunition, and mail to U.S. Navy ships and as well as ships from Great Britain, France, and Italy.  In November of 2000, Captain Goodwin was given the command of the Pre-commissioning unit of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

The Ronald Reagan is the ninth of the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers. From keel to delivery, the ship’s construction phase will take nearly five years.   The ship has an expected useful life of fifty years and can go up to twenty years without regeneration of its nuclear power system.   The ship is nearly eleven hundred feet long, longer than the Empire State Building is tall.   The 4.5 billion dollar carrier stands twenty stories above the water level. It contains ninety four-million pounds of steel and a million pounds of aluminum.  The four bronze propellers weigh a little more than sixty six-thousand pounds a piece. Its flight deck covers four and one half acres.  Its top speed is thirty knots. When fully operational, the ship will be home to six thousand sailors, aviators, and other personnel. There is enough food stored aboard to feed them for ninety days at eighteen thousand meals a day. There are radio and television stations aboard.  A daily newspaper is circulated throughout the ship.  The ship’s water plant can distill four hundred thousand gallons of water each day, which is equivalent to the water used by two thousand average homes.  If you want more figures,  there will be thirty thousand light fixtures, fourteen hundred telephones, fourteen thousand pillowcases and twenty eight-thousand sheets on the ship.  There will be more than thirteen hundred miles of cable and wires aboard the Reagan. More than a billion parts have to be assembled before the ship can go to

The Reagan features a new island house which represents an improvement from the other Nimitz carriers.  In a ceremony to commemorate the laying of the island house on the deck, Captain Goodwin placed underneath the house the gold aviator wings from his uniform along with a gold medallion inscribed with the words, “national pride,” based on President Reagan’s “Four Pillars of Freedom.  The island house, which weighs thirteen million pounds alone, will allow greater
flexibility in the future.

The Reagan features additional design changes which will improve the carrier’s ability to function in today’s high tech world.  The carrier will be the only one in the fleet able to launch F-14 Tomcats from catapult No. 2 while trapping other planes on the angle just a few feet away.  Maintenance requirements will be reduced. There are design changes to improve safety on the flight deck.  The ship will contain a new fiber optic control system to operate the three and one half million gallon jet fuel system.  The primary flight control system will have a 270-degree view of the carrier’s airspace.

It will take about two years for Captain Goodwin, his crew, and the ship builders  to get most of the work done.  “I’m feeling a sense of euphoria, seeing all of this... it’s not just something that is happening anymore, it’s real,” Goodwin told a “Stars and Stripes” reporter.  The first time the shipbuilders flooded the dry dock the Captain commented, “It didn’t list. It didn’t tilt. It was perfect.” The Reagan will be commissioned in the spring of 2003, following a series of sea trials later this year. She is expected to arrive in her home port at the Naval Air Station at North Island in Sand Diego, California in 2004.  The first deployment was scheduled for 2005.

The Reagan was christened on March 4, 2001.  Seven thousand people came out in the rain to see the festivities.  The keynote address was given by President George W. Bush.  Nancy Reagan was given the honor of breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to christen the ship named in honor of her husband.  Also present at the ceremonies were Virginia governor, James Gilmore, and Virginia senators, George Allen and John Warner.  Lee Greenwood sang his “bringing the house down” rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.” Many of the Navy’s top brass were on hand as well as the ship’s captain, of course.  The ship’s seal, which was designed by some of her crew, features the motto of the ship, “Peace Through Strength,” with four gold stars which represent the 40th presidency and Reagan’s Four Pillars of Freedom, preserving individual liberty, promoting economic opportunity, promoting global democracy, and instilling national pride.  Its red border is reminiscent of the
Reagan presidential china.

On February 9th past, Captain Goodwin led a birthday celebration in honor of 91st birthday of the nation’s longest living president.  Goodwin told the gathering, “We all have a responsibility to share information about our namesake with our friends, our families, our neighbors, and shipmates. The Captain cited that other presidents have carriers named in their honor. “President Washington won our nation’s first war, President Lincoln won our nation’s bloodiest war, President Truman won a World War, and President Reagan won our nation’s longest war,” said Captain Goodwin.

As for his own future, Captain Goodwin sees a desk job after his tour aboard the Reagan is complete.  “Being an admiral would be nice,” commented Goodwin. Goodwin’s mother Mary lives in Texas. His sister, Jane, lives in Chicago, while his own immediate family still lives in Washington state, where his son is planning to graduate from high school. As for the future of the United States Navy, Captain Goodwin sees that Navy’s mix of ships will provide a vital role in the defense of freedom. “The mix of naval forces will allow us to strike quickly and decisively at the pockets of terrorism around the World,” said Goodwin, who also commented that after September 11th of last year, the Navy will be even more valuable.

“Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be a commander of an aircraft carrier,” said Captain Goodwin, who was told after eighteen years of flying that he was a little too old to be flying and ought to be driving ships as “a real naval officer.”  “My pilot friends wouldn’t like to hear me say this, but being in command of a carrier is much better than being a squadron commander,” Goodwin said. Captain Goodwin, in an interview with a reporter of the “Bremerton Sun”, said, “I am thrilled just to be able to command a carrier.  The fact it’s the Ronald Reagan doubles the honor.  The Reagan administration’s policies had a huge role in winning the Cold War.  I’ll take great pride in having been the first commanding officer and taking the ship to sea for the first time.  Sea trials are where you get to exercise everything about the ship, ... things you would never do otherwise.” Goodwin’s decorations include the Legion of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, as well as a host of unit commendations and awards. In commenting on the most rewarding aspect of serving  in the U.S. Navy, Captain Goodwin said, “ It is a sense of service, giving of my self, my time, my ability, and even having to sacrifice being without my family for six months at a time to serve my country.”

The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan went out to sea for the first time on May 5, 2003. Captain Goodwin, who was selected to become a rear admiral only four days later, commented, “ I gotta tell you, the first four days of that week were better than the announcement of the promotion.”

On July 12, 2003, the official commissioning of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan took place at Norfolk, Va.  Vice President Dick Cheney addressed a large crowd of dignitaries, sailors, and well wishers, including Nancy Reagan, wife of the President.  In his address in the commissioning program, Capt. Goodwin proclaimed, “Quite frankly, there is not a better name for an aircraft carrier than Ronald Reagan.”

In August 2003, Rear Admiral Goodwin was transferred from the ship to a desk job as Deputy Director, Plans and Policy, U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.  Following his tour in Germany, he was assigned as commander, Abraham Lincoln Strike Group. His next assignment was commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet and then reported for his final tour as the assistant chief of naval operations, Next Generation Enterprise Network. 

       Goodwin's  decorations include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, as well as numerous unit commendations and awards.

     Admiral Goodwin retired from active duty in June 2010 after 35 years of service. He is currently employed by Auburn University as director, Nuclear Power Generation Systems Program in the College of Engineering.