Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox

SOUTH CHINA SEA – Fifteen sophomore midshipmen and one junior midshipman from universities throughout the United States started a five-week training cruise aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), May 23.

The summer cruise is a long-standing Navy tradition that gives midshipmen hands-on training in the different jobs available within their field of interest.

“Most of these guys don’t know yet what they really want to do,” said Lt. James Brigden, from Centerville, Ohio, the lead coordinator for the midshipmen program aboard John C. Stennis. “This is an opportunity for them to make informed decisions, almost like picking a rate.”

Midshipmen are broken up into four groups in accordance with their year in college: 4th class midshipmen are freshmen, 3rd class midshipmen are sophomores, 2nd class midshipmen are juniors, and 1st class midshipmen are seniors.

Midshipmen will go on their first cruise after completing their freshman year. Third and 2nd class midshipmen shadow enlisted personnel and 1st class midshipmen shadow junior officers while deployed.

“This is…the best way to engage the active duty military and experience different platforms,” said Midshipman 1st Class Katherine Serrano, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, a senior at Colorado University. “It enabled me to choose between surface warfare officer or go the pilot route.”

Midshipmen are paired with running mates during their cruise. They learn the ins and outs of their job, sleep in the same berthing and stand the same watches.

For Lt j.g. Natasha Druggan, from Lexington, Kentucky, being the running mate for Serrano was a privilege.

“I want to show her what it’s like to undergo the process before she has to make a decision,” said Druggan. “She’ll get to see what my watch is like, what my daily routine is like, going to quarters, helping during [material condition hour], getting to know my division and what we do.”

This is Serrano’s first time on an aircraft carrier after embarking with USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) on a prior cruise.

“It’s allowed me to get involved in the other side of the Navy instead of just going to school and doing ROTC events,” said Serrano. “Out here I get to talk to different communities and see what these sailors have to deal with on a daily basis.”

Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

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