Skip to content

The run of the ship: Petty officer invites dad along for cruise on aircraft carrier

Editor’s Note: This story was orginally published in the July 2, 2015 New Richmond News. It is being republished here with permission of the New Richmond News and RiverTowns.net.

The story, authored by Judy Wiff, is about Naval Petty Officer Kyle Helgevold and his father Jim Helgevold, a former Glenwoodite and graduate of Glenwood City High School.

By Judy Wiff

For a local Navy enlisted man, May 29-June 4 was “Take Your Dad to Work Week” as he and his father spent five days exploring the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson.

Petty Officer Third Class Kirby Helgevold, a 2012 graduate of New Richmond High School, was among the sailors allowed to invite a family member aboard the Carl Vinson as the crew wound up a deployment and cruised from Hawaii to San Diego, Calif.

For a week, father and son traveled on the same ship, sleeping in different quarters but sharing meals and spending their days touring the supercarrier.

“For the most part, we had the entire run of the ship,” said Jim Helgevold, Star Prairie, a military veteran who now works as a sales consultant at River Valley Ford in Baldwin.

“You can imagine what it might be like. But to be on a huge ship with 6,000 people is really hard to wrap your head around,” said Jim. “It’s a city the size of New Richmond, a self-contained city.”

“It was cool,” agreed Kirby of the experience. “It was definitely something not a lot of people get to do.”

He added that his father – who enlisted in the Air National Guard while attending UW-River Falls, spent five years in the Guard and went active duty in the Air Force from 1989-94, serving during Desert Shield and Desert Storm – has now experienced life in three branches of the military.

Kirby – whose mother, Kris Helgevold, also lives in Star Prairie – was born on an Air Force base in Delaware where his father was stationed at the time.

“The days aboard the Vinson were amazing,” said Jim.

“I got to show him pretty much everything I do personally on a day-to-day basis. I got to show him what everybody on the ship gets to do,” Kirby explained.

“To watch these young men and women go about their jobs in very stressful and rigorous conditions and the attitude they had toward their job was just awesome,” said Jim, of seeing 18- to 21-year-old “kids running a multi-million dollar ship.”

While officers are in charge, “the backbone of the whole ship is kids who were just able to vote a couple of years ago,” said Jim.

“I am incredibly proud of him,” he said of his only child, who has been in the Navy for a little over two years, was named Sailor of the Week one week and was selected Junior Sailor of the Year for his command in 2014.

“He stayed in a rack bunk just like I did,” said Kirby of his father’s life on the carrier. While Kirby slept in his usual bunk, his father slept in a rack in a room about the size of a living room with two dozen other men, senior enlisted guys. The racks are three bunks high with 2 ½ feet between them.

Each morning Kirby would meet his dad, have breakfast with him and then spend the day together with Kirby getting caught up on what he had missed at home and he and his father touring carrier areas, including the bridge and deck.

“He was with me all day, every day,” said Kirby, who works in administration, tabulating and processing information for awards. “I was just happy to show him what I do.”

The days were especially gratifying because father and son hadn’t seen one another for nearly a year. Kirby was last home in July 2014, and the Vinson left port Aug. 22 for deployment in the Persian Gulf.

“The first time I’d seen him face-to-face (in many months) was when I got to Honolulu,” said Jim. During the deployment, they communicated through Facebook Messenger and emails. Every five to six weeks when Kirby was in port, they were able to talk by phone.

Jim arrived in Hawaii May 26, and Kirby’s ship docked May 27. They spent a couple of days visiting Jim’s nephew, Aaron Larson, another New Richmond area native who recently got out of the Marine Corps and now lives in Hawaii.

When they arrived in San Diego, Kirby had to stay on the ship, but Jim spent a couple of days with former military friends in California before coming home. Kirby, who is assigned to Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California until March 2017, will return to St. Croix County July 3 for a two-week leave.

“That ship is all business,” said Jim of the professionalism of the crew. “We got to see them when they were unwinding, but they were still incredibly professional.”

The cruise was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with his son, said Kirby: “He and I and 6,000 of our closest friends, who were complete strangers. You can’t put a price on that.”

Kirby is the grandson of John and Betty Evans and Joe and Naomi Helgevold, all of New Richmond.