On a recent morning last month, Petty Officer 1st Class Roric "Ro" Ralph took a small boat onto the Savannah River to be closer to two of the rowers he coaches with the Augusta Rowing Club.
"This is what I live for," said Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph, of Navy Information Operations Command at Fort Gordon, as the boat cut through the water. "It calms me down at the end of the day."
Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph has been at Fort Gordon for about five months and has been coaching team members since he arrived.
"I had this lined up before I got here," he said.
He had been helping coach a high school team at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., when he learned he would be moving to the area.
The Augusta Rowing Club and Savannah River were not foreign to the sailor, who has family in Columbia.
Although his nickname Ro is a shortened version of Roric, the fact that it sounds similar to the sport he loves is ironic.
"It's like it was destiny," he said.
While attending Clemson University during the 1990s, Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph first joined a rowing team.
"I was hot-headed," he said. "A friend thought I'd make a good coxswain because they get to yell a lot."
At Clemson, he met the daughter of the Augusta Rowing Club head coach, Dr. George Fry Jr. He also rowed on the Savannah during his collegiate days.
Twenty-nine credit hours short of a degree, Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph left Clemson and spent a couple of years coaching rowers at colleges including the University of Vermont.
His lack of a college degree, however, hindered him, so he decided to join the Navy in hopes of finishing school.
Coaching gives him the opportunity to be on the water and involved in the sport but, he said, it doesn't take the place of rowing in a race.
His work schedule and the chance of deployments make it difficult for him to be involved on a team, he said.
For now he's content coaching. His ultimate goal isn't for his rowers to win medals, although that is important, he said.
"I hope I've instilled in them a love for the sport for the rest of their lives," he said. "Even if they don't do it in college, they can start up and row with the masters (adult league)."
Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph said the sport is one they can be involved with for their entire lives.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at email@example.com.
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