Every organization has one: That wily veteran, that sage and seemingly omniscient grey beard who knows all things relative to their respective career field. That man or woman that can be called on at any time to provide helpful insights, timely wisdom and an endless river of knowledge to all who require it. The Navy's Aviation Ordnanceman (AO) rating is no different. The Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity (NOSSA) on board Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head is fortunate to have the Navy's senior Aviation Ordnance Officer, Capt. Michael K. Price, assigned as the director of the Explosives Safety Afloat (N7) Directorate. Capt. Price arrived at NOSSA in February 2012 after serving two years as the commanding officer of the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Florida.
Capt. Price's 2008 promotion to his current rank places him in select company within the Aviation Limited Duty Officer (LDO) designator. Only six Captains in the U. S. Navy, including himself, have attained this rank and he is the first African-American in his specialty to achieve this level since the establishment of the AO rating in 1926.
Some would assume that a Sailor who ascends to the senior position in their respective specialty would have had early aspirations for that particular career; however, Capt. Price recalls a slightly different beginning to his journey with the Navy. "I didn't know what an Aviation Ordnanceman was until the recruiter tried, very poorly, to explain it to me. Growing up, I always wanted to be an electrician or a mechanic. My bigger dream was to be a pilot because I was fascinated with space. I became an ordnanceman due in part to the availability of A-school after I completed high school mid-term and decided I needed to provide for myself." With the death of his mother when he was only 15, Capt. Price ended up living with his oldest sister and her four children, along with his two younger sisters. "I decided to take responsibility for my own life and destiny and enlisted in the Navy at age 17. Thirty-six years later, I'm still in the Navy as the senior Aviation Ordnanceman. I guess you can say being an AO is 'my life'."
Captain Price enlisted in the Navy on December 22, 1976 under the delayed entry program. He began active duty February 8, 1977 upon graduation from Covington High School located in Covington, Louisiana. His initial assignment took him to Recruit Basic Training at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois and subsequently to Aviation Ordnance "A" School in Memphis, Tennessee.
He reported to VA-122 for follow-on training earning a Navy Enlisted Classification Code for A-7E aircraft, and upon completion, was meritoriously advanced to Petty Officer Third Class. He then reported to Light Attack Squadron VA-93 stationed aboard USS MIDWAY (CV-41) in Yokosuka, Japan. Subsequent tours included VA-97 "War Hawks" in Lemoore, California; Fleet Composite Squadron Five, Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Philippines; Fighter Squadron-151 "Vigilantes", Atsugi, Japan; Mobile Missile Maintenance Unit One, Cubi Point, Philippines where he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer; Air Anti-Submarine Squadron-41, San Diego, Calif., and Light Attack Wing Pacific Fleet, Lemoore, Calif.
Ten years after his initial enlistment, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Price was commissioned a Limited Duty Officer Ensign on March 2, 1987. He has since had successful officer tours as Weapons Elevator Officer aboard USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70); Ordnance Officer - Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland; Carrier Air Wing FIVE Ordnance Officer - USS MIDWAY (CV 41) and subsequently USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62); Ordnance Officer - Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida; Ordnance Handling Officer - USS NIMITZ (CVN 68); Officer-in-Charge - Atlantic Ordnance Command, Detachment Sewells Point Norfolk, Virginia; Ordnance Handling Officer and Gun Boss Pre-Commissioning Unit RONALD REAGAN and USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76).
In December 2005, then-Commander Price reported to the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Whidbey Island for assignment as Executive Officer and subsequently as Commanding Officer. His next assignment was Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity (NOSSA) as Fleet Liaison Officer, followed by a second command tour at Naval Air Technical Training Center Pensacola, Fla.
Capt. Price often reflects on lessons he learned early in his naval career that have helped to prepare him for his current position. "I was always a shy kid, so when I first came in the Navy I listened passionately to everyone around me and absorbed information like a sponge and dedicated myself to learning my trade." Lessons learned in his early upbringing also provided a firm foundation for his success in the Navy and the AO rating. "I grew up in the south and was taught 'old school' about speaking at the proper time, following orders, listening carefully and applying what you've heard and learned. I learned, more than anything, not to be afraid of something new."
Capt. Price does not believe that there was one single piece of advice that best shaped his journey to where he is now. "I gleaned what I needed from numerous people over the years and applied what worked. If something didn't work out, I always had a back-up plan to avoid frustration. In any case, I didn't have lofty goals and tried to keep things within perspective. I've always made my goals obtainable within MY capability and not someone else's."
When asked if there's any advice he would give to a young Sailor who might be interested in following in his LDO footsteps, CAPT Price's answer is very matter-of-fact. "There is no magic formula for success! Work hard and always do your best. Check your moral compass, because this will help guide your decisions. Be sure to maintain your integrity and always do what is right. These items are associated with your name and will be what people use to measure you by in life. Your success depends on what you demonstrate and how you are perceived by others."
In addition to his responsibilities as the Navy's senior AO, CAPT Price recently accepted the reigns as the national president of the Association of Aviation Ordnancemen (AAO). The objective of this organization is to promote the professionalism of the aviation ordnance rating within the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and the Department of Defense. It also promotes all aspects of ordnance handling safety and provides technical and professional support to aviation ordnancemen in the fleet. He hopes to continue the extraordinary legacy of the association and has focused his efforts on recruiting new members, retaining current members and encouraging mentoring within the AAO and the aviation ordnance rating as a whole.