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JUNE 2007

Fleet Week: Careers In The Navy
Interviews with Members of the USS Wasp

By Alberto Cepeda

The first things that people link a career in the United States Military with are boot camp, weapons, fighter jets, army tanks and combat especially with everything going on recently in the Iraq War. Many times we make the mistake of viewing a stint in the military as if it were some sort of prison sentence or something that the men and women of our armed forces want no part of. While life in the military can be very tough and has many obstacles, the negative views that we associate with a career in the United States are sometimes far from true.

Education Update recently caught up with some of the crew members of the USS WASP LHD-1 of the United States Navy who were in New York City for Fleet Week 2007. They elaborated on some of the intricacies and routines of their careers in the United States Navy as well as the daily challenges they face and the many rewards they’ve attained throughout their career.

Interview with Timothy Renn, Third Class Quartermaster, USS WASP LHD-1(TR)

Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): When did you join the navy?
TR: I enlisted almost four years ago. September will be the fourth year.

PR: What were some of the factors that prompted you to enlist?
TR: Well, like everybody else you can travel a little bit. See the world. Get out of a small town. That’s probably the big pusher.  

PR: What small town were you in?
TR: I was in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. It’s actually north of Harrisburg.  

PR: You’ve been in for four years now. What was your education before you came in?
TR: Before, just high school.  

PR: What are some of the first things you did when you first came in? What assignments did you have?
TR: Boot camp was first. You march around a lot and you get yelled at a lot. It’s kind of your stereotypical military type thing. Lot of cleaning and things like that. On my first ship I was a Deck Seaman so we painted the ship a lot. More cleaning and things like that. Then I worked my way up to navigation so I plotted the ship’s course. Where we’re going? Where we need to be?  

PR: That sounds interesting. Were you trained to do navigation?
TR: Yes. I went to a school. They call them “A” school in the Navy; it’s just a specific type of training for a particular job.  “A” is like the first school because then there is a “B” school and a “C” school. It goes down the line.

PR: What did you learn in this “A” school aside from navigation?
TR: That’s basically it. It’s a specialized school. You learn a particular job. You learn what a chart is, how to put the ship on a course.  

PR: What is the single most difficult challenge or series of challenges that you face being in the navy?
TR: I’d say overall the hardest thing about the Navy is getting used to being on the go all the time. Sometimes you work twenty hours a day. You have to stand watch without eating or sleeping sometimes. You really have to push yourself to go to the next level.  

PR: So how many hours a week would you say you work?
TR: It really varies. You can be in a port in Norfolk working very little just like a regular job. You can go out to sea and even out to sea can be a really normal job. But maybe sometimes you have to refuel the ship and you have to get supplies and you have to pick up troops and you have to do it all at once. Then suddenly your free time is gone.  

PR: Do you feel that your fellow shipmates and the people that you’ve met along the way are patriotic about being in the military or is it just another regular job?
TR: Well even if they say it’s just a job, they’re still patriotic. If you weren’t patriotic, I don’t think you would come in at all because it is steeped in so much patriotism.  

PR: Is it hard to follow the rules. Are the rules kind of stressful sometimes?
TR: I think for young people that come in they can be. But the rules are a little bit different than the civilian world. Here if you don’t pay your bills you can get in trouble where as in the civilian world your boss doesn’t care as long as you show up to work but here it all factors in cause you’ll lose your secret clearance and things like that. So for the younger people it might be hard for them just to balance a checkbook.  

PR: What are some of the other activities that you’ve done while you’re on ship?
TR: Well, just by being in the Navy and going to those schools you collect college credits. I have like thirty something worth of credits there but they actually flew an instructor out to teach us some history classes so I took two history classes on one of our mini deployments. So we were floating around the coast of Lebanon learning some history.  

PR: Do you plan ultimately to get a college degree?
TR: It would be nice. It’s hard to find the time. They do give you the benefits and opportunities but still, it’s hard to find the time when you have a full time job.  

PR: If you were to leave after your four years, does the military pay for college?
TR: Yes. When you join you can sign up for the GI Bill and they take, well at least when I signed up it was a hundred dollars per month for a year and then they’ll give you X amount of dollars for college.  

PR: What would you say is one of your best memories in the four years you put in?
TR: Wow. I don’t know if it would be fun for a lot of people but I stood forth looking out on a hurricane once in the ocean and you can see the waves slam in. I was on a ship that was one hundred feet tall and the waves were coming up and hitting me and the wind was blowing and I just think that that’s something that nobody else will ever do. I’ll remember that forever.  

Interview with Sarah Sanchez, Second Class Boatswain’s Mate (SS)

Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): Can you tell us some of the experiences you had before you came into the military, like schooling for example?
SS: I finished twelfth grade and got my diploma. I’m from a very small town where there aren’t many jobs. So what better way to see the world and get a better education? When I first came in it was like seventy five percent tuition and within two years they changed it to a hundred percent tuition assistance.  

PR: What town did you come from and how many years have you served?
SS: I came from Martinsville, Indiana and I’ve been in for seven and a half.  

PR: Tell us the most challenging experiences you’ve had in the military?
SS: Well of course. I’m in a very man’s field anyway. I work on the flight deck but I think the most challenging is not just female wise but for any service member who has a family. Preparing yourself in a short amount of time to be gone for a very long amount of time and not even knowing exactly when you’re coming back.  

PR: Do you have a family back home?
SS: Yes I do. I have two children. My daughter is five and my son will turn two in August.  

PR: So that’s kind of hard. Who’s taking care of them?
SS: Their grandparents are. When you have dependents of any kind of sort, young or have been a wife, the military is very big on making sure your family members are very well taken care of while you’re gone. They get you the proper legal paper work, power of attorneys, wills. They do all that stuff for us for free. They take care of us and make sure our family members are well taken care of also.  

PR: How often do you get to see your children?
SS: Well since my family members are over in California it’s kind of hard to get back and forth to see them as much as if they were closer. So I haven’t seen my daughter or my son for four months.   

PR: Tell us a little bit about the work that you do here.
SS: I work on the flight deck. My title is Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Handler which is an ABH. We do all the landing and launching of the aircraft on the flight deck. In terms of manual labor it is of course the chocking and chaining. We have a group of us which are “Crash and Salvage”. We have pretty diverse areas of our job: we have to know a lot about the flight deck and a lot about firefighting.  

PR: Who trains you?
SS: Of course the Navy does. The Navy trains us. They have different schools that we go to. We have an “A” school for ABH. We have refresher schools. We have firefighting schools. They make sure we’re well trained and then on top of that we get a lot of drills to make sure we stay sharp on what we’re doing.  

PR: Did you ever have to battle a fire?
SS: No, not yet. Not in my seven and a half years since I’ve been in the Navy. I’ve had to fight a fire. When I was on shore duty in Chambers Field on the Norfolk base, we had one of the aircrafts come in and it crashed but nobody got hurt but it was definitely a wild experience to see it. And then we had a couple of little, minor mishaps cause of malfunction of things but nothing major.  

PR: What will your next step would be? Do you plan to stay in?
SS: I would love to myself. The Navy is a really easy job as long as you can be on time, follow your orders and do as you’re told. The Navy is not a bad job at all. The separation of your family is what makes it difficult. It has a lot of benefits as far as medical and dental. I’m getting out because my daughter is five now and she’s going to start school. I would like to be here for her school. I plan to go to school, maybe a college for sailing.  

PR: Now your education will be paid for when you leave.
SS: Yes. I have the Montgomery GI Bill. I paid for that my first year in boot camp. You pay a hundred dollars a month for twelve months but you get a big amount of money over that. They like double or triple what you put into it. It’s the greatest thing and it keeps going up.  

PR: Would you like to do sailing in private industry, work for a sailing company?
SS: Oh, I would have no problem with it. This has actually been a very good experience and I wouldn’t take it back for the life of me and if I had to do it again, I would do it all over again.  

Interview with Christopher Kurek, Senior Chief Quartermaster Surface Warfare, USS WASP LHD-1(CK)

Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): Sir, could you give us some background information on the ship?
CK: This is an amphibious assault ship. It’s the largest amphibious ship in the United States Navy. It’s a redesign of the previous class of assault ships. They modernized the well deck area where we bring in the landing craft so that we could take in more of our hubber crafts, improve the cargo area and some of the crew living spaces to give an overall better product to transport marines and deliver them worldwide to whatever hot spot that may exist.  

PR: So the primary goal is to transport marines.
CK: Transport and land marines either by helicopter, now the V22 osprey or by landing craft out of our well deck.  

PR: How many aircraft can this carrier now hold?
CK: I don’t recall how many it can hold. It really depends on what types of aircraft we take. If we take harriers, we can’t take as many helicopters. The V22 osprey, we haven’t configured for that but it’s a much larger aircraft than even the harrier so that will diminish how many more aircrafts we can take.  

PR: What’s the approximate number of staff on board?
CK: We have approximately eleven hundred crew members and we can take up to two thousand marines.  

PR: Do you have a sense of some of the careers that young men and women go into when they leave or is it too varied?
CK:  It’s across the board. I’ve known sailors that came in to do their four years and went on to look for a career in law enforcement whether it was FBI, Secret Service, Marshal’s Service. Whatever law enforcement they wanted to get into. A lot of the chief petty officers go into more management positions. Our job, once we become a chief petty officer is to lead and manage the worker bees if you will whether it’s on a ship or a shore for the Navy but it translates really well into leadership and management once you get out into the civilian market place. So the careers are as varied as the careers in the United States. We do just about anything.  

PR: I know that you’re a career officer. What career would you think of when you retire from the military?
CK: Well based upon my military experience. I’ve been trained and learned enough that I could work on a coast guard certification or up to a Master’s license in any ship on any ocean. So for my job that’s where I’m headed. I can do that. Of course there are a lot of educational opportunities in the Navy. A lot of people have worked on Chief Master’s degrees that will lead into a teaching degree or maybe lead to a senior management position in some industry. We just had a Master Chief retire last year. He became a power plant manager. He was the number three operations manager at a power plant here in the Northeast.  

PR: The adage, “Join the Navy and see the world” is it true?
CK: It is as true as you make it. I’ve been fortunate to be on ships that have had really great deployments with really great crews. My first deployment, we went to thirteen ports in the Mediterranean over a six-month period. You definitely see the world. There are some people that come in and do their four years and sometimes your career and the ships that you get on they just don’t permit you to see the world and it frustrates I know a lot of sailors but if you stick with it and you make some wise choices and you stay at sea then you will definitely end up seeing the world. I’ve been in thirty countries in over twenty years of service. I’m having a blast and when I grow up, that is when I’ll retire from the Navy.#



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