By Matt Sinclair
If the domestic steel industry hadn’t gone through a major correction during the early 1980s, Bob Roth ’81 might still be working as a civilian engineer in the field.
Instead, he stands atop a massive steel structure, leading the crew of 5,000 sailors and Marines as captain of the USS Harry S. Truman. The aircraft carrier is in the Middle East providing combat air support for the troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
The ship is part of the carrier strike group that supports maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
“Keeping international waters open and safe for all those who travel them is a job of enormous magnitude, but it’s one that we train for and are ready to do every single day because we are 100 percent on watch,” Roth says. “One consideration I don’t worry about is the real strength of the U.S. Navy, the fighting sailor. It is why I have remained in the Navy for 27 years.”
During World War II, Roth’s father was in flight training in the U.S. Army Air Corps, which led to the young Roth’s love of aviation. But he was even more fascinated by the space shuttle astronauts and when he realized how many were naval aviators, he knew which branch of the military was for him.
Roth served as an F/A-18 pilot, squadron commander, and test pilot before becoming an executive officer.
“By the time you are a carrier CO,” he says, “you understand all activities, from the airspace surrounding the aircraft carrier to the flight deck and down to the lowest levels in the propulsion spaces.”
He was previously commissioning executive officer of USS George H.W. Bush, and commanding officer of USS Cleveland in San Diego, Calif., which deployed in support of Pacific Partnership 2010, a humanitarian assistance mission to South Pacific island nations. He holds an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology and a master’s in national security and strategic studies from U.S. Naval War College.
To Roth, the reward of service is being part of an organization with a noble mission.
“The freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. don’t exist in every nation around the world,” he says. “Although it was the technology that attracted me—flying strike fighters from an aircraft carrier—it is the people who have kept me in the Navy.”