This Navy captain fled Iran as a child. Now he's preparing to return at the helm of an aircraft carrier

Community
Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh, then the commanding officer of the Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) carries a bouquet of flowers for his wife following the ship's arrival at its forward-deployed port of Gaeta, Italy Oct. 27, 2017. (U.S. Navy/ Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Rebeca Gibson)

NORFOLK, Va. -- The new skipper of one of America's aircraft carriers fled Iran as a child.

Now, he's preparing for a deployment that could take him back to the region at a time of heightened tensions between the two nations that helped mold him into who he is today.

Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh took command of the USS Harry S. Truman in July, achieving a goal he set for himself 30 years ago after he first laid eyes on an aircraft carrier in Norfolk. Back then, he was a young sailor who'd joined the Navy straight out of high school to serve a country he had only lived in for about a decade.

His journey from Tehran to enlisted sailor to an officer in command of the ultimate symbol of American seapower is a story that he believes serves as a testament to the opportunities the United States provides.


Hakimzadeh (pronounced Ha-KEEM-za-day) was born in Texas to an American mother and an Iranian father, but moved to Iran when he was still a baby. He fondly remembers his childhood there during the 1970s.

He attended an international school where they spoke Farsi and English, kept the faith of his Southern Baptist mom and had uncles and cousins who lived nearby. At the time, Iran was pro-American and embraced many aspects of Western culture.

It was, as Hakimzadeh says, an "idyllic" childhood.

But that quickly changed during the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

He and his family were forced to flee to America when he was 11, his sister was 9 and his mother was seven-months pregnant. They were rushed onto an airplane as the airport was about to close, destined for a small town near Hattiesburg, Miss. where the son of one of his father's business partners had agreed to take them in.

He said the weeks leading up to their departure were very much like the opening scenes in the 2012 Ben Affleck film "Argo," which is based on the true story of the CIA's efforts to rescue six Americans who were hiding in the Canadian embassy in Iran after the revolution.

"It just happened to be a country in chaos, a country in revolution. And so as an 11-year-old it was a little traumatic to have life as you know it completely change like that," Hakimzadeh said. "I think it is probably a lot to do with why I decided I wanted to serve and wanted to be in this line of work."

Hakimzadeh enlisted in the Navy to take advantage of the opportunities the military provided and give back to a country he and his family love for all it's done for them.

"Coming from the experiences we dealt with as a family ... They've seen the alternative," he said. "They strongly support what I do."

Hakimzadeh is now preparing for the possibility that he could be called to return to the Middle East. His carrier strike group has already completed its last major pre-deployment exercise.

While the Navy doesn't disclose where its ships plan to go or when, aircraft carriers are frequently used as a highly-visible deterrent when tensions flare up around the world. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is currently in the Middle East serving that purpose after Iran shot down an American drone and seized foreign oil tankers.

If the Truman is called to take the Lincoln's place in the region, Hakimzadeh said he and his crew are prepared.

"There's not some particular personal angst involved," he said. "I've deployed there multiple times in the past."

Hakimzadeh, whose call sign is "Hak," spent much of his career as an E-2 Hawkeye flight officer based in Norfolk. He's flown in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and has completed eight operational deployments on seven different ships, earning the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.

While he knows his last name is uncommon in the United States, in some ways it helps serve as an icebreaker when he's deployed in the Middle East working with U.S allies or during port visits. Hakimzadeh still speaks a little Farsi and is always happy to tell his family's story to those who want to know more:

"I love to tell people that it's a testament to our merit-based Navy that a kid at 19, 20 years old can look at these things and go, 'You know what? I want to command those one day.' And it's certainly a testament to the United States of America that a guy named Kavon Hakimzadeh can do that."

———

©2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Maj. Bill White, who at 104 is believed to be the oldest living Marine, has received a remarkable outpouring of cards and support from around the world after asking the public for Valentine's Day cards. "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I still can't get over it," he said. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

STOCKTON — Diane Wright opened the door of an apartment at The Oaks at Inglewood, the assisted care facility in Stockton where she is the executive director. Inside, three people busily went through postal trays crammed with envelopes near a table heaped with handmade gifts, military memorabilia, blankets, quilts, candy and the like.

Operation Valentine has generated a remarkable outpouring of support from around the world for retired United States Marine, Maj. Bill White. Earlier this month, a resident at The Oaks, Tony Walker, posted a request on social media to send Valentine's Day cards to the 104-year-old World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart.

Walker believed Maj. White would enjoy adding the cards to his collection of memorabilia. The response has been greater than anyone ever thought possible.

Read More

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.

A spokesman for the Taliban has told a Pakistani newspaper that the militant group is hoping to reach an Afghan peace deal with U.S negotiators by the end of January.

The comments by Suhail Shaheen on January 18 to the Dawn newspaper come after negotiators from the Taliban and the United States met for two days of talks in Qatar.

Read More
The three Americans killed in a C-130 crash in Australia on Thursday were all veterans (left to right) Ian H. McBeth, of the Wyoming and Montana Air National Guard; Paul Clyde Hudson, of the Marine Corps; and Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., of the Air Force. (Coulson Aviation courtesy photo)

The three Americans killed in a C-130 air tanker crash while fighting Australian bushfires on Thursday were all identified as military veterans, according to a statement released by their employer, Coulson Aviation.

The oldest of the three fallen veterans was Ian H. McBeth, a 44-year-old pilot who served with the Wyoming Air National Guard and was an active member of the Montana Air National Guard. McBeth "spent his entire career flying C-130s and was a qualified Instructor and Evaluator pilot," said Coulson Aviation. He's survived by his wife Bowdie and three children Abigail, Calvin and Ella.

Read More

MIAMI/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will release details of his long-delayed peace plan for the Middle East before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival Benny Gantz visit the White House next week.

The political aspects of the peace initiative have been closely guarded. Only the economic proposals have been unveiled.

Read More
c1.staticflickr.com

The Pentagon moved a total of $35 trillion among its various budget accounts in 2019, Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg first reported.

That does not mean that the Defense Department spent, lost, or could not account for $35 trillion, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank in Washington, D.C.

"It means money that DoD moved from one part of the budget to another," Clark explained to Task & Purpose. "So, like in your household budget: It would be like moving money from checking, to savings, to your 401K, to your credit card, and then back."

Read More