Fleet Week: Careers In The Navy
Interviews with Members of the USS
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
PR: Do you plan ultimately to get a college
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
Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): Can you tell us some of
the experiences you had before you came into the military, like schooling for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
CK: Transport and land marines
either by helicopter, now the V22 osprey or by landing craft out of our well
PR: How many aircraft can this carrier now
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
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.#