‘I wanted to see the world’: Farmville native tackles Navy life

Published 1:41 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

T.J. Orth wanted to see the world. To do that, the Farmville native took a career path leading him to more than 30 countries, as part of the U.S. Navy. Orth is now a commander in the Navy and serves aboard one of the country’s most versatile combat ships, USS St. Louis (LCS 19), operating out of Mayport, Florida.

The 2003 graduate of Prince Edward County High School and 2007 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, joined the Navy 16 years ago.

“I love traveling and being on the water,” said Orth. “I wanted to see the world and the Navy looked like a great choice, as these were combined in one profession. I’ve been over to 30 countries in my naval career thus far, so I would say it has worked out.”

Today, Orth relies upon skills and values similar to those found in Farmville to succeed in the military.

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“My parents, teachers and coaches really showed me what a group of people can do when you are all focused on the same goal,” said Orth.

These lessons have helped Orth while serving in the Navy, especially in his current role as executive officer onboard St. Louis.

St. Louis is a fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatant that operates in near-shore and open-ocean environments, according to Navy officials. Littoral combat ships integrate with joint, combined, manned and unmanned teams to support forward-presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions around the globe. They conduct forward and maritime security missions focusing on the Caribbean or Middle Eastern regions.

Farmville native looks ahead and back

Orth began his career as a division officer in USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) followed by an assignment as a seamanship and navigation instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy. He later served as operations officer onboard USS Sioux City (LCS 11) before three years forward deployed with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Orth reported to St. Louis following an extensive training and assessment pipeline with stops in Newport, Rhode Island, Norfolk, Virginia and Mayport.

With 90 percent of global commerce traveling by sea and access to the internet relying on the security of undersea fiber optic cables, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity of the United States is directly linked to trained sailors and a strong Navy.

“Our mission remains timeless – to provide our fellow citizens with nothing less than the very best Navy: fully combat ready at all times, focused on warfighting excellence, and committed to superior leadership at every single level,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “This is our calling. And I cannot imagine a calling more worthy.”

Orth part of a changing mission 

Serving in the Navy means Orth is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on strengthening alliances, modernizing capabilities, increasing capacities and maintaining military readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“Our Navy has the longest reach and the longest stay time,” said Orth. “Warships can go out for months on end, projecting the image of America while protecting our Nation’s interests.”

Orth and the sailors he serves with have many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during their military service.

“My proudest accomplishment is when I served in the Arabian Gulf commanding the patrol coastal ship, USS Firebolt (PC 10), for 14 months followed by an assignment as the operations director for Task Force 55, U.S. Fifth Fleet’s surface task force,” said Orth. “My operations team directed up to 20 warships and U.S. Coast Guard cutters all over the Middle East, and I had the opportunity to serve with a great group of sailors who enabled our ships to accomplish their missions.”

As Orth and other sailors continue to train and perform missions, they take pride in serving their country in the United States Navy.

“I enjoy working with sailors from all over the country who come from multiple backgrounds and experiences and make us stronger as a whole,” said Orth.

Saying thanks 

Orth is grateful to others for helping make a Navy career possible.

“My career would not have been possible without my wife, Andrea, and my three children, Abigail, 10, Reagan, 8, and Caden, 5,” said Orth. “The military lifestyle takes full support and buy-in from your entire family. My wife has moved six times, including to the Middle East, and supported many assignments and every milestone throughout my career. My parents, Geoff and Kathy Orth, were also amazing in supporting and guiding me towards the Naval Academy and a naval career, despite my father actually being a retired army officer.”

Orth and his crew are preparing for a deployment to U.S. Fourth Fleet, which will be his fourth traditional deployment in addition to three years forward deployed in his career.

“I really enjoy my time serving with the crew of St. Louis,” added Orth. “I’m also not the only sailor here with ties to Farmville. Our weapons officer is Lt. j.g. Joe Gills, and his grandparents lived on 4th Avenue not too far from where I grew up. His grandparents, Mike and Maria Silveira, were actually my godparents. We are really looking forward to deploying together later this year. It’s a lot of fun to share Farmville stories around the wardroom table.”

Editor’s note: Rick Burke wrote this piece for the Farmville Herald.