When Richard “Buddy” Ford was a senior at Classical High contemplating his future, he set his mind on a couple of options. He wanted to be a firefighter or a police officer after first doing a stint in the military. It was big brother Joe Ford who convinced the younger Ford to go to college first.
The younger Ford, who played football at Classical, followed his brother’s advice and enrolled in Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Last weekend, two days after being commissioned as a Navy Reserve officer, he received his degree in marine transportation from Mass Maritime. In a couple of weeks, Ford will head to Norfolk, Va., for a month of training at his new job with Military Sealift Command and then he’ll be off on an assignment for five or six months.
“They do all the supplying for the Navy,” Ford said, explaining how a naval destroyer can’t go into a port so smaller Military Sealift Command ships are used to transfer supplies, ammunition, food, oil and other things from the destroyer to land.
“I’m excited,” Ford said. “I’ll definitely miss my family and others, but working will be great. I’m super happy. I never would have thought I would be in this position.”
Ford, in his role with the Naval Reserve, will be required to commit at least two weeks a year to the Navy over the course of his eight-year commitment. He’ll get a list of jobs to pick from once a year. Some can run as long as two years.
Ford said he had plenty of inspiration when it came to deciding on whether to enlist in the military. He said his father always regretted not joinging the military. His cousin, Steven Leighton, was also a source of inspiration. Leighton, a very good hockey player at Classical High before transferring to St. Mary’s his senior year (2009), is a year older than Ford. Leighton, who enlisted in the Navy after high school, made the trip from Seattle to Massachusetts to be part of Ford’s commissioning ceremony.
Ford said there’s a Navy tradition called “the first salute” where a newly commissioned officer gives a silver dollar to the recipient of his or her first salute. The tradition states that an officer has to buy the first salute and then earn every salute after through performance and by gaining the respect of subordinates. Leighton made the trip home to be his cousin’s first salute.
“He’s my best friend,” Ford said. “That made it really special.”
Ford said when he graduated from high school he thought he knew it all, but quickly learned in college that was not the case. The 2011 Classical High graduate, who went on to play football at Mass Maritime for four years, said his advice to anyone trying to figure out what to do after high school is to not have tunnel vision.
“Mass Maritime was a great opportunity to do something different. Don’t get tunnel vision. Keep an open mind on what you want to do. When I was coming out of high school I just figured I’d be a fireman, or a police officer. I didn’t even know the merchant marine industry existed,” Ford said. “I had no idea this was where I would be.”