Sylvanian sheds light on life in Singapore and meets the US Secretary of Defense
Recardo Wright is a long way from home. The Screven County High School alumnus is currently serving his country in Singapore as the Chief Petty Officer and Chief Electrician’s Mate for the US Navy’s Destroyer Squadron 7. Wright also recently met US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his visit to Singapore and even shared a few laughs with him. The Sylvania Telephone spoke to Wright via ZOOM on Monday, June 27 to discuss his military journey, life in Singapore and goals for the future:
Q: Tell the Sylvanians you don’t know about yourself.
A: I was born in Augusta, grew up in Waynesboro a little bit… I grew up in Sylvania. Graduated from Screven County High School in 2002. Joined the Navy in August 2002.
Q: What made you decide to sign up?
A: When I graduated my parents gave me two choices: either go to college or join the military, you have to make something of your life. Well, back then, I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I didn’t want to put the burden on my parents to go to college because I didn’t get a scholarship, and I was coming straight out of high school and was done with school.
Q: Why did you choose the electric route?
A: When I was growing up in middle/high school, one of my uncles was an electrician. So I worked with him over the summer holidays, doing little things, showing myself how to wire an outlet or a ceiling fan and so on. I said, “You know what, I like doing this!”
Q: How is military life similar or different than what you envisioned when you first enrolled?
A: A huge culture shock. I left Georgia for the first time in 2002. I got on a plane that went direct to Illinois, it’s a boot camp. After boot camp I went to my electrician’s buddies school, then to Norfolk, Virginia, and Norfolk, Virginia was also a culture shock because since we’re from a small town we don’t have these big buildings or traffic.
Q: When did you come to Singapore and how is it over there?
A: I was in Singapore for the next three years. Living here is very different. Singapore is a very clean country, it is a very safe country and it is a very rich country. The food is very different. Mostly Muslims live here, so many foods are Halal or allowed according to Islamic teachings.
Q: Did you have relatives or friends visit you there? what did you show them
A: Some of my friends came to visit… brought them here, showed them the culture, showed them the different foods and lifestyles.
We have these places called ‘Hawker Centres’, it’s a center with things that look like mini food trucks and they have all sorts of foods that you can choose from.
Q: How is life there similar or different to Sylvania?
A: I see no similarities [laughs] You know, back home we would go fishing, we would go hunting, we would do mud swamp, stuff like that. You can’t do any of that here. You can go fishing, that’s it.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you?
A: Almost everything is closed here in Singapore. The majority of the country could not go to work, everyone was working from home.
We had this one time called the “Circuit Breaker” where nobody could travel anywhere, come in, leave the country, for about three weeks.
Singapore is very transparent so they are not ashamed to say how many COVID cases we got this day or that so they pretty much keep everyone posted.
Now that the travel is open, I’ve been to Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, all the Southeast countries.
Q: Do you have a favorite place in the Southeast Asian countries you have visited?
A: Hong Kong and Thailand. Thailand is a very beautiful country, the beaches are amazing, the food is great, the US dollar goes a long way, so I can probably get a five star hotel room for around $60.
Q: Your trip brought you home many unique stories, and on June 12th, you need to add another one: Meeting with the Secretary of Defense. How was it?
A: I found out a few days beforehand. I finished work on Saturday and got to work on Sunday and me and my other two shipmates got together and went to the other base (we have two bases here) and set everything up. He walked in, did a little interview with my chain of command, talked to him a bit, shook hands, gave me a nice coin… I think that’s probably one of the biggest highlights of my naval career.
Q: What were you talking about and what was it like?
A: He asked me what made me want to join the military… and said, “Sylvania is far from the ocean. How did you get into the Navy?” We laughed about that.
It was surreal, like, “Am I really meeting this guy right now?” Very tall guy, very soft speech but his words are very powerful.
Q: You have already achieved a lot. What goals do you have for the future?
A: I’m getting closer to my military career. So, after Singapore I’m leaving here in September and going to Bahrain, so I’ll be in Bahrain for 18 months. Then after 18 months I will retire and will probably come back here to Singapore to work as a civilian because I have a guaranteed job here; If I do the same as I do now, I can do the same in the civilian world but make more money.
Q: Do you have any advice or tips for the young Sylvanians who look up to successful Sylvanians like you?
A: I would tell them to listen to their parents first, because their parents won’t tell you anything wrong. Graduate, set goals. If you want to go to college, if you want to go to the military, set this goal, set it up, aim at it, shoot at it and achieve this goal; and whatever they learn along the way, they pass on to someone else behind them.