Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Susan Damman

PORT ORCHARD, Washington – The John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership recognized three USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Sailors for their outstanding leadership at an awards ceremony, Oct. 20.

Cmdr. Robert Burgess, from Romulus, Michigan, received the Straight Furrow Award; Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Schmugge, from Rush City, Minnesota, received the Look Ahead Award; and Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Winkler, form Wichita, Kansas, received the Constitution Award.

Congress created the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership in 1988 in recognition of the exceptional public service leadership of John C. Stennis, a U.S. senator representing Mississippi for more than 41 years and the namesake of the Bremerton-based aircraft carrier. The Stennis Center hosts the awards ceremony annually to recognize Sailors aboard John C. Stennis for sustained superior performance and exceptional leadership skills.

“We present these awards because we think it really is important to recognize and honor the best of the best and hold up their example of leadership for others to see,” said Rex Buffington, director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership.

The award winners were presented with replicas of the U.S. Capitol building.

“It’s actually quite amazing to be selected because of all the leaders that I’m surrounded with on the ship,” said Schmugge.

The Straight Furrow Award, the Look Ahead Award, and the Constitution Award recognize Sailors who demonstrate honor, courage, commitment, foresight and integrity. The names of the three awards are derived from leadership principles demonstrated by Senator Stennis.

Stennis once said, “I want to plow a straight furrow right down to the end of my row,” referencing how farmers must look forward while maintaining steady effort to plow a straight line in the field.

USS John C. Stennis’ motto is, ‘Look Ahead,’ the same motto Senator Stennis kept on a plaque on his desk to remind himself to focus on the future.

Stennis memorized the entire Constitution while a law student. He admired the document and the inspiration and determination of the leaders who created it.

“[John C. Stennis] always looked ahead, always had a plan and was always thinking about others,” said Winkler. ” I think that’s what we’ve got to do as leaders. We have to take care of our people, and we have to take care of each other.”

The John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership was created by Public Law 100-458, and is codified in the United States Code under Title 2 – The Congress, Chapter 22. The Stennis Center develops and delivers programs for young people, leaders in local, state and federal government, and congressional staff that promote public service as a noble calling, enhance leadership skills and foster relationships among leaders with similar concerns.

For more information about the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership visit

John C. Stennis is conducting a scheduled maintenance availability at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

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