TOPEKA (KSNT) – With the military for two decades, U.S. Navy Chief E7 John Swihart served all over the world. From the Mediterranean to the Pacific, he stayed plenty busy making an impact in multiple wars.

John had quite the introduction to the military. He was in the graduating class the week the Cuban Missile Crisis hit, with his bootcamp experience reflecting more uncertainty than usual.

“They marched us over to the drill hall,” Swihart said, “a full Lt. came out, he says ‘President Kennedy has ordered basically a blockade of Cuba. Russia says no, in my opinion we will be at war with Russia within 48 hours.’ I’m standing there going ‘what’d I get into’?”

With a 20 year career in the Navy, he got into quite a lot of important moments throughout military history, with his first cruise putting him in the Mediterranean.

“The Russians had a rather large fleet in the Mediterranean, so did we,” he said. “They’d send their destroyers out every morning, they always had a destroyer follow us to know where we were. I was just a second class, so I was basically just a worker bee. I’d meet the plane when it came back, they’d tell me what went wrong. I’d have to make a decision right then as to what to change. I’d change it as fast as I could and then I’d get out of the way.”

As time went on, John would receive more leadership opportunities as new conflicts arose.

“I was there for the Arab-Israeli War,” Swihart said. “We went on what was called 10 minute alerts. A 10 minute alert means planes are on the catapults, there are pilots sitting in the planes, and maintenance crews are around, if the word comes you fire now, you go.” 

That wasn’t the only war John played a part in, making an impact overseas in Vietnam.

“I was on a carrier and we were on a photo reconnaissance squadron,” he said. “We took what were called before and after. We’d fly in, get pictures of a place before we bombed it, then we’d bomb it and go back and see what it looked like after we bombed it. We were the first squadron to have infrared.” 

After his time in the military came to an end, John worked in education for over a decade before taking up the Executive Director Role with the Combat Air Museum in Topeka.