By Carly Sitzer
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Clifton resident Airman Teddy Barbukov’s typical day sounds a lot like most other young man’s: He wakes up early, goes to the gym and heads to work.
But what makes Barbukov’s routine slightly different is that he is one of 5,500 Americans aboard the USS George Washington, a Navy carrier ship based in the western Pacific. Barbukov works on the flight deck, a job that he said can be “a little hectic.”
“I don’t actually fly the planes, but I like to think that if it weren’t for people like me, they wouldn’t be able to fly,” he told CBSNewYork. “What we do is we help them take off, we help them land and we help them get their gear ready. You don’t get a lot of rest up there—you gotta love it to do it.”
Barbukov was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States with his mother and father when he was 5 years old. He joined the military as a way to help himself and the people around him. And from the sound of it, he doesn’t have any regrets.
“I always wanted to do something better for myself and those around me, so there’s nothing better than joining the military,” he said. “It’s always been a pleasure to serve my country.”
Before serving his country with the crew of the USS GW, Barbukov was in BUD/S, which is a Navy SEAL training program that Lt. Cmdr. Dave Hecht, the public affairs officer aboard the USS George Washington, explained is one of the hardest military training programs not just in the United States, but also in the world.
“That is some tough military training and for him to go as far as he did is a real indicator of what he is made of,” Hecht said of Barbukov. “I have no doubt that after he does his tour here on George Washington, he’ll go back to BUD/S, and he’ll make it through. I can tell that he’ll be a SEAL one day.”
Becoming a Navy SEAL is what Barbukov said is his “ultimate dream.”
“What I like to think is if you have a dream, you can always achieve it,” he said. “You just have to push for it.”
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Hecht On What Makes Airman Barbukov’s Job Different:
His time aboard the George Washington while pursuing that dream is different than many other sailors. The GW is the only ship that is fully and permanently deployed. Unlike the other ships that are home ported in either the East Coast or West Coast of the United States, the members aboard the GW live and work out of Japan, which means the sailors must go longer periods of time away from home.
“If Airman Barbukov was on an aircraft carrier in San Diego or Norfolk, he could probably fly home a couple of times a year,” Hecht said. “But he is on 3-year orders; he lives here in Japan, on USS George Washington, for the next 3 years.”
Hecht explained that the reason the ship is based in the Pacific is so the United States will be able to get to the area to provide aid in the case of conflict between countries in the region or natural disaster.
“We are not just here for war, we’re also here for peace and that’s to help other countries in the event of natural disasters,” he said.
“While people think about aircraft being launched off the bow and armed to the teeth with bombs and missiles. One of the best weapons we have for peace is simply our ability to make fresh water.“
While being based in the Pacific, Barbukov has gotten the chance to explore a lot of the area, including Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and—his favorite—Thailand. Although that doesn’t compare to the love Barbukov feels for his hometown.
“The thing I like most about the area is that you can do anything, it’s an endless possibility—especially in New York,” he said. “Anything you want, you have, right at the palm of your hand. There’s not anywhere like it in the world.”
Barbukov knows about the importance of seizing opportunity and is thankful to what the military has presented to him. In fact, he’s hopeful that other young Americans will make the same choice he did.
“The military can go wrong, but join the military,” he said as an offer of advice to younger generations.
“It’ll straighten it out if you aren’t sure what you want to do in your life. You always have people to look up to, people to go to with your problems. It helps you out with your future—it helps you as a person. It makes you unselfish in every way. Even if you’re young, you have time to join the military and go back to school and do whatever it is you want to. The military opens up a lot of doors for you.”
Additionally, while the military can open a lot of doors for those serving, Hecht emphasized that those in the military are also performing a service that can often be a thankless job.
It’s extra hard for the men and women who may be serving far from home on July 4th. Hecht asked that you take the opportunity this July 4 to let someone who is serving our country know that you’re thankful.
“So if you know somebody in the military—it could be a neighbor’s kid, it could be a cousin—send them an email,” he said. “On the Fourth of July, send them an email saying thanks for being out there, standing watch, protecting our freedom; you may not know me, you may just remember me from your childhood, but I just wanted to say thank you. Reach out to somebody who is serving our country, it means the world to them.”
Please extend your thoughts and wishes to Teddy Barbukov and other patriots serving overseas in our comments section below.