Story by MC3 Lex T. Wenberg
Photo by MC3 Grant Wamack

Many Sailors have seen other Sailors around the ship recently who look like Khakis, but wear strange collar devices instead of the usual leadership insignias. These young people, who will eventually become officers, are Midshipmen; future Sailors and leaders.

During their pre-commissioning time, their college years, the officers-to-be must go through a certain amount of Sailorization to prepare them for the fleet. Part of this involves going out to sea during their summer/winter breaks with surface ships or submarines in different phases.

“The first of the two phases we have aboard Stennis is the 2nd Class Midshipmen cruise, which is designed to really give the midshipmen the perspective on the hard work our enlisted do and the strong skill sets they bring to the fight,” said Lt. Cdr. Francis Brown, Stennis’ Training Officer. “The second of the two is the 1st Class Midshipmen cruise is designed to pair them up with a junior officer where they will receive a snapshot of what it’s going to be like to be a division officer out there in the fleet someday.”

Aboard Stennis, the Midshipmen are assigned to someone to follow, depending on their phase of midshipman training; lowerclassmen will learn from enlisted Sailors, while upperclassmen will learn from officers.

On both sides, the Midshipmen learn leadership in action.

“My time on Stennis has been helpful in seeing first-hand the working relationships between officers and enlisted Sailors,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Alex Songer, a Junior at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “You don’t see that in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).”

Getting to experience the diversity of the ship is paramount to the experience. In order to achieve this, the Midshipmen are issued Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) which are sets of proficiencies midshipmen must gain while aboard Stennis.

“The Midshipmen PQS they’re working on is something unique to Stennis,” said Brown. “Many ships put a PQS together just to give them varied exposure, but this one has a portion for each department and shows them the various war-fighting capabilities of the ship.”

The bulk of the program is geared to prepare the midshipmen for leadership, and to expose them to different types.

“Meeting everyone from Ensigns to Admirals, I’ve gotten to see different leadership styles,” said Midshipman 1st Class Marissa Eccleston, a Senior at the University of Rochester. “I got to see what’s working, what’s not and what appeals to my style most.”

Spending time aboard a Navy vessel can be an enriching experience for a Midshipman.

“I’ve really enjoyed this cruise,” said Songer. “I’ve been able to observe a lot about how the Navy runs, and also what the positives and negatives are between being enlisted and being an officer.”

The Midshipmen will be leaving Stennis shortly after the return to Bremerton, but will also be visiting Naval Kitsap Bangor as well as touring USS Nimitz (CVN 68) during their Planned Incremental Availability (PIA).

Their time aboard has been worthwhile, though,

said Eccleston.

“I realize after this cruise that everyone’s job is really important,” said Eccleston. “Whether you’re serving food on the mess decks to navigating on the bridge, every single person has a role which makes the Navy what it is.”