Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez
BREMERTON, Wash. – As a young boy growing up in upstate New York, Jonathan Ciecko had no idea he would someday become the leading afloat fitness and recreation specialist for one of the most powerful warships in the world.
“I love the job because it gives me satisfaction knowing that I am making a difference in Sailors’ lives,” said Ciecko. “Giving them positive motivation, encouragement and the tools to achieve their personal goals is truly a great feeling.”
Ciecko graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in exercise science. Due to a combination of opportunity and sheer luck, he acquired an internship at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Hawaii.
“I was really stoked to receive an internship in Hawaii and then later get hired as a recreation assistant with the Army at Schofield Barracks health and fitness center,” said Ciecko. “This experience was my first encounter with conducting group physical training session for our nation’s service members.”
On base he lead a variety of fitness classes, including spin lessons, circuit training and kickboxing. He also helped organize special events like monthly 5K runs and holiday concerts.
One day, a realization hit Ciecko. It was about time to take his training to the next level and aim for a full-time position. At the time he was between two jobs, working both at the recreation center on base and a local gym off base.
Opportunity struck again. He accepted a job offer as a fitness specialist, his first position working for the Navy and his last before becoming part of the Stennis family. He chose the job because it was a chance to travel and witness naval operations firsthand, he said.
“I became accustomed with the Navy’s way of doing things,” said Ciecko. “I was trained in running fitness enhancement program classes and learning the Navy’s physical readiness training schedule.”
After a few years of offering his support and fitness knowledge, it was time for Ciecko to bid farewell to the island he called home and move on to bigger things.
“I told myself that before the age of 30, I wanted to have managerial or supervisory experience to challenge myself,” he said. “Being on the carrier has given me more experience than I would’ve received if I stayed at my old job.”
Soon after he applied online for an afloat fitness specialist position with the description “duty station: worldwide,” Ciecko checked aboard Stennis. Both excited and nervous, he had a master plan for the Sailors he would be walking the ship’s deck plates with every day.
“When I first met him [Ciecko], I could tell he knew what he wanted to accomplish,” said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Eric Taylor, leading petty officer of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, from Mansfield, Ohio. “He already has a schedule of fitness events for Sailors to enjoy, including yoga, zumba, spin and TRX classes.”
As Stennis’ Fit Boss, Ciecko will be expected to fulfill a range of responsibilities, such as teaching classes, maintaining gym equipment and providing dietary advice.
“I am definitely looking forward to working with Stennis Sailors and giving them what they want,” he said. “That is what the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department is for, keeping you guys happy. That is the reason I am here.”