Ernest A. “Ernie” Gardner, age 66, of Hodgenville, passed away Tuesday, September 21, 2021, at Baptist Health Hardin in Elizabethtown.
FCC(SW) Gardner was the Leading Chief Petty Officer for CS-5 Division on USS RONALD REAGAN from October 27, 2000 until his retirement on March 23, 2004.
He was born on August 30, 1955 in Brandenburg and graduated from LaRue County High School in 1974.
FCC(SW) Gardner entered the Delayed Entry program on December 4, 1974, reported for active duty in the United States Navy on January 4, 1975, completed basic training in Great Lakes, IL, then attended Electronics Technician “A”, “B” and “C” schools at Great Lakes. He attended the last “B” school offered by the Advanced Electronics Field. In April of 1976, he reported for duty at the Communications Station in Nea Makri, Greece. His duties included HF, UHF, Microwave and Satellite Maintenance Technician. Within six months he became the primary Microwave Tech working with the Air Force at Kato Soulie, Greece.
In May of 1978, he reported to Naval Broadcasting Service Detachment Six in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for duty as a Broadcast Technician. While stationed at GTMO he took leave in June of 1970 to marry Carolyn Bernard of Hodgenville, where they attended the same church. Their daughter Michelle was born in September of 1980 at the US Naval Hospital in GTMO. Petty Officer Gardner departed the Navy in December of 1980.
In September of 1989, after almost 9 years as a civilian, Petty Officer Gardner returned to Active Duty reporting to Navy Veterans training in Orlando, FL. With the Electronic Technician rating being overmanned, Petty Officer Gardner had to re-enter the Navy as a Data Systems Technician. He began Data Systems Technical Schools Command at Mare Island, CA.
In May of 1991, DS2 Gardner reported to the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72) as an Advanced Combat Direction System Computer/Peripheral Technician. In October of 1994 DS2 Gardner was advanced to DS1 and rapidly rose to CS-5 Division Leading Petty Officer. DS1 Gardner was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal and three Navy Achievement Medals while serving on the ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He provided the design for a new interface that corrected a faulty SLQ-32 installation. He provided invaluable assistance to SPAWAR’s first successful submarine to carrier video surveillance with Joint Tactical Information Data System (JTIDS). He also managed to keep all CS-5 electronics at 100% capability while the Military was downsizing and took his divisions manning from 39 to 12 personnel over the course of three deployments.
In July of 1997, DS1 Gardner reported to Pacific Fleet Integrated Logistics Overhaul at the US Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA as the only assigned military Data Systems Technician. While at ILO, he received another Navy Achievement Medal for creating automated data conversion tools that allowed three different types of shipboard databases in use on the West Coast to be made compatible with the new Configuration Data Management – Open Architecture SQL database. DS1 Gardner was advanced to Fire Control Technician Chief Petty Officer in September of 1999. In October of 1999, he managed the ILO side of the merger with Fleet Technical Support Center – Pacific.
In October of 2000, FCC(SW) Gardner reported to Pre-Commissioning Unit RONALD REAGAN. During the pre-commissioning phase, he was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal for standing up the largest and most powerful carrier pre-commissioning Local Area Network to date. Chief Gardner also earned his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist designation during this time. FCC(SW) Gardner also oversaw the first Ships Self Defense System (SSDS) installed without the Advanced Combat Direction System as an integral component. His team of Chiefs and Petty Officers worked hand in hand with Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding and various In-Service Engineering Agents to identify and correct new system design flaws in SSDS interfaces with the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and various other systems and ensured RONALD REAGAN had the most advanced and capable Combat Direction System in the Navy.
FCC(SW) Gardner has earned the Navy/Marine Corp Commendation Medal with gold star, Navy/Marine Corp Achievement Medal with three gold stars, Navy Unit Commendation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy “E” Award with silver E, Good Conduct Medal with four bronze stars, National Defense Medal with bronze star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two bronze stars, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with two bronze stars, Overseas Service Ribbon with two bronze stars and Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait).
He was preceded in death by his parents, Otha Byrd Gardner and Ruby Jean Wyatt; his maternal grandparents, Edwin and Carrie Mae Wyatt and an uncle, David Wyatt.
Chief Gardner is survived by his wife of 42 years, Carolyn Benard Gardner; a daughter, Michelle Gardner of Hodgenville and two grandsons, Andrew Gootee and Wyatt Gootee.
Funeral services will be held at 11 AM, Saturday, September 25, at First Baptist Church Hodgenville. Interment will be at 1:30 PM, Tuesday, October 12, at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central in Radcliff.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 PM Friday, at Bennett-Bertram Funeral Home in Hodgenville and after 9:30 AM Saturday at the church.
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