Orange County native deployed to Libya
As President Barack Obama addressed the nation Monday night, a Vidor native prepared for deployment.
Obama explained to the country our part in the air strikes against Muammar Gadhafi in Libya.
“I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.”
He said NATO would be taking over the operation Wednesday.
That may be so, but early Tuesday morning Lt. Curtis White, a naval flight officer from Vidor, deployed to Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Italy.
A tactical coordinator in the U.S. Navy’s P-3C Orion aircraft, White and his combat aircrew of 11 will be providing air support over the Mediterranean Sea for NATO forces.
White was not at liberty to talk about the mission and had no comment concerning the conflict, the deployment, or anything related to why we are there.
Sherri Skiles, White’s mother said, “I was not totally convinced of the reasons we were in Iraq/Afghanistan and I don’t fully understand why we are involved in Libya either so, it’s frustrating. I still don’t [know why we’re in Libya],” she said after watching Obama’s speech.
A 2001 graduate of Vidor High School, White joined the Marines after 911. While in the Marine Corps he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and applied for Navy Officer’s Candidate School (OCS).
Skiles said White left the Marines for the Navy after his first enlistment period was complete, because he wanted to fly. She said he would be able to stay in the air in the Navy. In the Marines, he would be in the air only half the time and with ground forces the other.
Following OCS, he completed primary flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. and advanced training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. Earning the wings of a naval flight officer (NFO) in San Antonio he returned to Jacksonville, Fla. for training in the Orion Aircraft. White was then transferred to NAS Whidbey Island, Wash. where he serves with Patrol Squadron Four Six (VP-46).
White was deployed in May, 2010 to Al Udied Air Base, Qatar. While deployed his crew flew more than 700 hours, providing air support to coalition troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Gulf.
“As his mom, I was worried before, when he went to Qatar. I tried to keep it out of my mind; working helps and a lot of prayer.
Of her son’s current deployment, Skiles said, “They’re starting out with a month, of course it’s military and he said he’s planning for 12 weeks.” She continued, “It changes every day. What [Obama] said last night was it was being handed over to NATO and what my sister heard was NATO doesn’t want it. I don’t know. They don’t know what to do with it.
“I’m scared and growing more anxious the closer it gets to Tuesday,” said Skiles over the weekend. “I have no idea what to expect. When he deployed last time other crews had gone before him and came back. As far as I know there is one squadron from the U.S. over there now and they needed another crew. That’s about all I know.”
Though Skiles is uncomfortable with her son being deployed overseas, she is confident in his abilities. “He assures me that he and the rest of the crew are very good at their jobs and it’s one reason they were selected for this. I also know he loves what he does. Some people go their whole life and never get to do what they love.”
Lt. White is married to Jennifer (Schmidt), also a 2001 graduate of Vidor High School. Skiles lives in Vidor with her husband, Rodney. White has one sister, Sonja White Behnken, who lives in Bevil Oaks with her husband Chris.