NORFOLK, Va. - Captain Kavon Hakimzadeh sits aboard the USS Harry S. Truman knowing it's much more than an aircraft carrier.
To understand why, you'd have to rewind to his childhood. As a young boy, the now-decorated military hero was forced to flee Iran with his family.
"We were refugees from the Iranian Revolution in 1979. We left an environment that was difficult, to say the least, and showed up here in the States as immigrants, and I just had an appreciation early on for just how wonderful this country is," Hakimzadeh said.
He remembered being a 19-year-old and seeing an aircraft carrier for the first time. He recalls just sitting on the pier and staring at the massive warship.
"It was easy as a 19-year-old to look up and say, 'You know what - I want to command one of those things.' That represents America for me," he said. "[The carriers] represented, for me, everything that I love about this nation, and I was infatuated; I was awestruck and I was committed in that moment."
After 32 years, Captain "Hak," as he's called by most, earned the title of commanding officer, reporting aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in June 2019.
"The fact that a kid named Kavon Hakimzadeh of Iranian descent can do it is a testament to the United States of America," he said.
On Friday, his tour as CO ended and he was relieved by Captain Gavin Duff - but not before his leadership was praised, pointedly while tensions heightened in the Middle East.
He successfully commanded a 3,000-person deployment, performed strategic deterrence from Iran and maintained the only COVID-free ship over the summer.
"At points like this, you ask, 'Was it worth it?' Absolutely, it was worth it," he said. "We're basically at the point where we’ve proven that the systems work on the ship, and now as we get into having the Navy’s war fighting training system Carrier Strike Group Four - the team that comes through and trains aircraft carriers - to go to on deployment ,that’s the next phase so will be doing that this fall."
When asked if he could pinpoint his greatest accomplishments from the past two years, Captain Hakimzadeh said, "I think we got a lot done from the maintenance and the training side, but the fact that we were able to deploy, the fact that we were useful - we provided something our country needed when she needed it the most. I'm certainly going to miss doing this job."
For more on Captain Gavin Duff, the USS Harry S. Truman's newest commanding officer, tune into News 3 this weekend. Reporter Erin Miller will share his one-on-one interview.