Charles Gilmer (left) and Craig Short are natives of Scott County who are now working on a new shallow water combat submersible for the U.S. Navy. Contributed photo.
Craig Short believes, with the right attitude and a willingness to work hard for what you want, there’s nothing you can’t do — no matter where you’re from or what your circumstances may be.
Short, who grew up swimming in Copper Creek in Scott County, is a Navy SEAL combat swimmer.
“I had a real disadvantage. I was never on a school swim team, didn’t have a swim coach or even a big pool near us. But I still made it through a very tough SEAL training program — swimming two-mile timed swims each week and a five-and-half-mile endurance one, among other things. There’s not much you can’t accomplish if you are determined and committed, regardless of where you grew up,” said Short, who has been a Navy SEAL for 30 years — nine years in active duty and 21 years in Reserves. He now holds the rank of commander.
Short is the son of Jim and Margie Short. Jim served as the assistant principal at Twin Springs High School and later as principal of St. Paul High School. Short has three brothers — one who followed him through SEAL training and one who became a U.S. Army Green Beret.
“The key thing my dad taught me is I could do anything I put my mind to doing as long as I never quit and was committed to learning and education. He would even get mad at us if we had a quitter’s attitude. He never let my brothers or me quit anything once we started it. He encouraged us all the time,” Short said.
Short said he also found his teachers at Twin Springs High School to be great sources of encouragement.
“They never let you tell yourself you couldn’t do something. They told us we could do anything we wanted to do. It made a big difference,” he said.
Short graduated from Twin Springs in 1982. He joined the military before attending college. A few years later, he went back to college, obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Clinch Valley College — now the University of Virginia’s College at Wise — and, in 1992, he received a master of business administration degree from Virginia Tech.
Today, Short is the maintenance engineering manager for the largest plant in North America, which is located in Gainesville, Ga. But he has also recently been recalled to active duty. He is currently mobilized and assigned as the commanding officer over the Naval Special Warfare Group 3 SWCS-FIT team — Shallow Water Combat Submersible-Fleet Integration Team.
The SWCS is a wet submersible mobility platform suitable for transporting and employing Navy SEAL Special Operations Forces (SOF) and their payloads for a variety of missions. The primary use of SWCS is to provide access, particularly clandestine access, into SOF high-threat areas. The SWCS will be deployable from a Dry Creek Shelter and surface ships.
“I was selected to be on this project because of two reasons — my engineering and technical background and I am a prior SEAL Delivery Platoon Leader/Pilot Navigator,” Short said.
Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) Inc., in Huntsville, Ala. was awarded a contract from the United States Special Operations Command to design, develop, test, manufacture and sustain the SWCS. While attending a critical design review at TBE in Huntsville earlier this year, Short was pleasantly surprised to learn that another Scott County native — and Virginia Tech alumnus — was also involved in the development of the SWCS.
Charles Gilmer graduated from Gate City High School in 1995. He went to Virginia Tech and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2000 and today works for TBE.
“I noticed Charles when he was presenting to about 60 to 80 Navy civilian and active duty personnel, myself included, on the work that Teledyne Brown Engineering had been doing,” Short said. “As he presented, I noticed he had a very familiar sounding accent. He was also wearing a Hokie lanyard around his neck, which held his TBE identification badge. I went up to him and started talking about Hokie football, but then I asked him where he was from, originally. I found out he grew up in Scott County. I found out I went to school with some of his relatives and we grew up less than 10 miles from each other and here we are, two ‘small town country boys’, working on the Navy’s most technologically advanced combat submersible, probably the most advanced in the world.”
Gilmer grew up in the Big Moccasin community of Scott County, near Nickelsville. He said he could’ve attended high school at either Twin Springs or Gate City, but chose Gate City.
After learning the two of them had so much in common, Short and Gilmer decided they wanted an opportunity to tell folks back home in Scott County — especially the kids growing up here today — to not let where you are from hold you back.
“Being from that area, oftentimes people think they’re at a disadvantage,” Gilmer said. “There are a lot of kids from there who have a really good work ethic. Take that work ethic and put it into your education and it really pays off in the end. Growing up in a farming community like I did, people do a lot of their own work. There’s a lot of engineering, you would say, that goes on just from the normal people fixing their own machinery. My dad was an engineer. He went to Virginia Tech and he really pushed us to go and get our education.”
Gilmer is the son of David and Connie Gilmer. David is the building inspector for Scott County. Gilmer’s brother, Travis, is a teacher at Gate City High. He also has a sister, Jessica Christian, who lives in Blountville.
“I found, when I got to Virginia Tech, that even though some kids there went to much larger high schools, my school system was really competitive. We’re competitive anywhere. I want kids to know that. As long as you put in the hard work, you can compete with anyone anywhere. It doesn’t matter what school you’re from,” he said.
“Just because you’re from a small area, doesn’t mean you can’t compete with anybody in the world. You can do it. Never give up. Really, that’s what got me through SEAL training. That’s what got me through college,” he said. “Look at your obstacles as just opportunities. If you’ve got a barrier raised in front of you, you go around it. You go under it. You may not be able to go through it, but there are ways to get there. I have found in my life, that 90 percent or more of success is never giving up, even when you’re told no. What I have found is that you will beat most people simply by the fact that you don’t give up. To the kids back home, your school is not too small. You can compete on any level. Just look at what Charles and I are doing. We’re able to work on the most technologically advanced wet submersible the world has ever seen and we came from Scott County, were educated in Scott County’s schools, went to Virginia Tech. You can do it, too. That’s my message. Go out and do great things.”
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