Archives for category: Ceremonial

Story by MC1 Grant Ammon
Photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate

The more than 400 Sailors recently selected for advancement aboard USS John C. Stennis took to the classroom Nov. 21 – 22 to take part in Center for Personal and Professional Development’s Petty Officer Leadership course.

Facilitators from the Chief Petty Officers Mess and First Class Petty Officers Mess came together to educate, inform and train the newly advanced petty officers on topics such as leadership, rights and responsibilities, mentoring, and subordinate development.

“My favorite unit of the training was on deckplate leadership,” said Yeoman 2nd Class John Maldonado, a course attendee selected for First Class Petty Officer. “I think I will be able to use the skills and lessons I learned during this course. It will serve me well on a daily basis. A lot of the course material seemed like review at first, but I really learned a lot. It was a good opportunity to take time just to focus on leadership and on the details that go into being a good manager or leader.”

The course blended readings and discussions with scenario-driven case studies to illustrate points and deliver course content to the newly advanced Sailors. Instructors wove stories and anecdotes into the lesson plan to make the content more appealing and interesting to participants.

“My favorite instructor was Senior Chief Brooks, who taught the block on professionalism,” said Maldonado. “She presented herself in a very professional manner and her enthusiasm for the course material really made her presentation fun and exciting. She shared her knowledge with such energy; it was hard not to get into the lecture.”

For Sailors volunteering to facilitate the course motivation to serve came from the opportunity to give back to junior Sailors and develop leaders in the Navy.

“The main reason I chose to get involved was to help to instill the Navy Core Values of honor, courage and commitment in our future leaders,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Michalle Miller, an 18-year veteran of the Navy who taught a portion of the Third Class Petty Officer Leadership Course. “I was able to draw from my experiences in the Navy as well as my life experiences as a mother and as a grandmother while teaching the course. I truly feel it is my obligation to give these newly advanced Sailors my knowledge for the betterment of the Navy’s future.”

Taking a break from the day-to-day responsibilities of shipboard operations to focus on leadership serves to develop and foster growth in those serving in the Petty Officer ranks and adds value to the naval service.

“These courses are meant to be a refresher or introduction to leadership and should re-instill the Navy’s Core Values in our Sailors,” said Senior Chief Personnel Specialist (SW) Robert Cook, Training Department’s Leading Chief Petty Officer. “These courses aim to make the Navy a stronger workplace and to remind these newly promoted Sailors that as a petty officer their responsibilities go beyond themselves. They are now also responsible for the Sailors in their care as well.”


Story by MCSA Carla Ocampo
Photo by MC3 Benjamin Crossley

Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) came together to recognize Hispanic Americans’ impact on their country and military alike during a ceremony in the ship’s hangar bay Oct. 14.

Stennis’ multi-cultural committee put the ceremony together as a celebration for the contributions Hispanics have made to the U.S. Navy. This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month theme is, “Many backgrounds, many stories…one American spirit.

“I believe we must celebrate and embrace our diversity,” said Lt. j.g. Victor Vasquez, Ship’s Secretary. “It’s what makes us the great force that we are.”

On September 17, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson designated a week in mid Sept. as National Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronal Reagan extended that week to a month long observance Sept.15-Oct.15. The National Hispanic Heritage month is a time for Americans to educate themselves about the influences Hispanic culture has had on society.

“It’s important to recognize different cultures and their contributions,” said Lt. Jose Bautista-Rojas, one of Stennis’ chaplains. “Hispanics have made large contributions to the U.S. Navy since the civil war and there have been many Medal of Honor recipients.”

The event then featured traditional and modern Hispanic music from Merengue to Reggaeton and a brief history lesson on some of the biggest Hispanic contributors to the U.S. Navy.

“This month is very important to us all culturally,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class (AW/SW) Jose Jaen. “It shows that no matter where you come from, how far you’ve traveled in the Navy, there’s always someone here who has that same pride for your heritage.”

Today there are more than 60,000 Hispanic Americans serving in the U.S. Navy as enlisted Sailors and officers. The multicultural committee gives Sailors a chance to celebrate their culture during the month of October.

“We bring so much more than ourselves to the Navy,” said Bautista-Rojas. “We bring our culture and traditions and make it stronger.”

Celebrations like these can help raise cultural awareness, morale and form bonds between Sailors. The development of these relationships is essential to the Navy’s Maritime Strategy by keeping a team of diverse Sailors who work together to accomplish daily missions.

Story by MC2 Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo by MC3 Crishanda McCall

Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks during a memorial ceremony Sept. 11.

Sailors gathered in hangar bay two to pay their respects to the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives that fateful September morning and the countless who have died in its wake while defending the United States from the threat of terrorism.

“It is important that we as an institution, the United States Navy, take time out of our very busy schedule to feel, reflect and ultimately remember the horrific events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001,” said Stennis’ Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis. The enemies of freedom had committed an act of war against our country and all of their hate was brought upon us without warning or care for the innocent.”

The ceremony began with a screening of photographs from the morning of the attacks and the aftermath in the days that followed. The service then paid particular tribute to the 125 Sailors, Soldiers and civilians who were killed when United Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Lt. Cmdr. Bill Motes, the administrative officer for Carrier Air Wing 9, embarked aboard Stennis, was working at the Pentagon that day and recalled to the crowd how a call from his wife just minutes before the crash stopped him and his coworkers from entering an area of the building that was destroyed in the attack.

“After some reflection I realized that if my wife hadn’t called at that precise time I, along with my Sailors, would have lost our lives,” said Motes. “At times I feel guilty for being a survivor. Why them and not me? It is a difficult feeling to express. Yes, I am thankful to still be alive, but I grieve every day for my brothers and sisters who lost their lives and for the families they left behind.”

An American flag discovered beneath the rubble of the WorldTradeCenter’s NorthTower was displayed center stage during the ceremony. Stennis was one of the first ships called to action in the beginning of the War on Terror, and the flag has been displayed aboard since Sept. 15, 2001, serving as both a symbol of America’s determination in the face of terrorism and of the United States Navy’s swift response to an attack on its homeland.

“People sleep soundly because of our service,” said Commander, John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Rear Adm. Craig Faller. “We are out here standing the watch. It is our time and we are joining this war. We only have one chance to make a difference and honor the lives lost.”

The ceremony came to a close as the names of those who perished in the attack on the Pentagon were read aloud, accompanied by a ring of the ship’s bell. Immediately following the reading, a 21-gun salute set to “Taps” rang through the hangar bay as a solemn tribute to the fallen.

“We must put the smoldering remembrance of 9/11 in our wake, not to forget, but to look ahead at the promise we see here Sept. 11, 2011,” said Faller. “We must be ready to take the fight to our enemies and support the Marines and the Soldiers in the foxholes on the ground. And we will. Let’s honor the memory of 9/11 and never forget.”

John C. Stennis Sailors continue to serve just as they did ten years ago in response to a national tragedy, sailing into harm’s way to protect and defend the United States, allies and partners across the globe.

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled seven-month deployment to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Operation.

Story by MC2 Heather Seelbach
Photo by MC3 Benjamin Crossley

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) laid to rest the remains of 30 military veterans and three spouses during a burial at sea ceremony Aug. 1 while conducting operations in the Pacific Ocean.

Under the direction of Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis and command Chaplain Cmdr. Michael Greenwalt, Stennis Sailors committed the cremains with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

Many of the 33 honored were veterans of foreign wars, including several who served in World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 2nd Class Peter Aguirre, an urn bearer for the ceremony, said he was honored to participate in his first burial at sea.

“It’s a part of our Naval heritage to conduct burials at sea,” said Aguirre. “Also, it’s part of the human experience, part of life.”

The families of those honored will be presented with a letter from the captain, a chart listing the latitude and longitude of where the remains were committed, and photographs of the ceremony.

The assistant leading petty officer for command religious ministries department, Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Ian Wakefield, considers it fulfilling to participate in the time-honored tradition of burial at sea.

“This is the final wish that veterans have given to the United States Government,” said Wakefield. “It is a very historic Navy tradition to bury the dead at sea, so for us to be able to partake in it is very important.”

Many who participated said the ceremony was a meaningful way to honor veterans while participating in one of the Navy’s most solemn traditions.

“Their struggle in life is over, but ours continues,” said Aguirre. “It just reminds us of the brevity of life and how we need to take it seriously and appreciate it for what it is.”

The participation of Stennis’ crew in the burial at sea played a crucial role in fulfilling the obligation to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes.

Story by MC2 Foster Bamford
Photo by MC3 Ron Reeves

The Navy is steeped in tradition, from wog day to honor, courage and commitment. There are the dress whites and the dress blues, but before any Sailor can tie the square knot on a neckerchief they have to learn a few things, and one of them is “Anchors Aweigh.”

Beginning in boot camp, every enlisted Sailor walks through a tunnel and sings in their loudest, if not best voice: “Roll out the TNT!”

“Every time I hear “Anchors Aweigh,” I think about boot camp, and that was twenty years ago,” said Senior Chief Fire Controlman (SW/AW) Jonas Carter, LCPO of Training Department.

Boot camp may have changed over the years, it may have consolidated into one location and updated its battle stations evolution, but the tradition of recruits singing “Anchors Aweigh” has been a constant.

“At first I was nervous and worried about trying to get the words right,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class James Hiatt, who works in Air Department’s V-4 division. “But then it became a competition between the divisions to see who could sing better and louder. We all had fun doing it. It was good for team-building. At first I didn’t pay attention to the words, but after I had it memorized, it helped give me an idea of what it was like to be a Sailor back in the day.”

“Anchors Aweigh,” a time honored tradition in the Navy, was composed in 1906 by Lt. Charles Zimmerman, and the lyrics were written by Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles.

The song was introduced on Dec. 1, 1906, during an Army-Navy football game that the Navy won 10-0. It was played that day as a “football march,” or what is today known as a “fight song.”

“The song means that you are part of something better than yourself,” said Ensign Matthew Nechak, a former defensive end for the Navy football team, who now works in Supply Department’s S-6 division. “We sang the original first verse after every game we won. It explains our number one goal for the football season: beat Army.”

“Anchors Aweigh” is still used as a fight song for the Navy football team, but it has also come to represent the entire Navy, because its lyrics have evolved.

What was once “Stand Navy down the field,” has become “Stand Navy out to sea.” Instead of “Army you steer shy-y-y-y,” we now sing “Vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.”

The reason for the evolution of the lyrics was to make them more applicable to the Navy as a whole. By 1950 an updated version was published by George D. Lottman and Domenico Savino. Lottman worked on making the lyrics a bit more broad, while Savino tweaked the melody.

Lines like “Farewell to college joys,” became “Farewell to foreign shores.” That update was one of many that brought on the song the Navy sings today. It wasn’t immediate.

“Keeping traditions alive in our changing Navy is a necessity, because it’s our heritage, it’s where we have evolved from,” said Carter. “The traditions of the men and women who came before us tie our Sailors to them. I couldn’t imagine today’s Navy without them. They’re what we’re based off of.”

Like many of the traditions in the Navy, “Anchors Aweigh” has been modified to fit the Navy of the modern world. It may sound a little different now than when Sailors of old sang it, but the sentiment remains.

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.”

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Heather Seelbach
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chablis Torrence

To many Americans, Memorial Day means a day off to spend with family and friends while reflecting on the fallen heroes of our country.

For Sailors out to sea, Memorial Day is more poignant. Unable to share this holiday with family or friends, and without the luxury of a day off, the only aspect of this holiday that retains meaning is reflection.

“I consider Memorial Day a time to be grateful for my life and my freedom, and to be thankful to the people who gave their lives for our country,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Justin Johnson.

This holiday takes on special significance to many Sailors as they remember friends, loved ones and fellow service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, to honor those who served before us and made our country what it is today,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Oscar Vera.

Originally established as a day to honor those who died while defending our country’s freedom, Memorial Day has taken on various meanings for many Americans over time, and the spirit of the holiday thrives in the hearts of the men and women who serve our country.

“Memorial Day is a time to remind us all about why we volunteered to join the Navy,” said Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Sean Walsh. “It reminds me of the daily sacrifices made by those who serve as well as their families. I am honored to continue my service to my country and will never forget why I joined.”

Capt. Joseph Kuzmick receives the Legion of Merit from Rear Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin during a change of command ceremony in hangar bay two aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis is currently moored in homeport of Bremerton, Wash. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/Released)

Story by MC3 Dugan Flynn

Capt. Ronald Reis relieved Capt. Joseph Kuzmick as the commanding officer of USS John C. Stennis (CVN74) in a change of command ceremony in hangar bay two Friday.

Reis, a graduate of University of California, Davis, received his commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School and became an aviator in 1987. He is reporting to Stennis after successfully commanding USS Nassau (LHA 4), and said he is honored to be a part of Stennis’ crew.

“Today I join a crew and a ship that is squarely between the buoys, sailing true and proud, headed for open ocean,” said Reis. “Captain Kuzmick, you will be sorely missed by the men and women of this fine warship and the greater Bremerton community.”

Rear Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, Carrier Strike Group Three commander, presided over the ceremony and commended Kuzmick’s efforts and the progress made during Stennis Bids Farewell to CO his time aboard Stennis as captain.

“Leadership does not command excellence, leadership builds excellence,” said Aucoin. “That is what Captain Kuzmick has been doing these past two and a half years.”

During Capt. Kuzmick’s command, Stennis launched and recovered over 14,000 aircraft and qualified 115 new pilots with zero mishaps. The ship deployed in 2009 to the Western Pacific, and participated in a host of additional underways in support of carrier qualifications. Under his command, Stennis served as the centerpiece for the Centennial of Naval Aviation, held at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. on February 12. Stennis also received the 2010 Edward F. Ney award for the best food service in the fleet, and two consecutive retention excellence awards, a first for Pacific Northwest carriers. Most recently, Stennis completed Tailored Ship’s Training Availability/Final Evaluation Problem and the Congress mandated Board of Inspection and Survey, back to back successfully.

“What has been truly and absolutely captivating to me is how well this crew responded to virtually every challenge,” said Kuzmick. “There’s been challenges, but they executed everything with almost no white space in the schedule. The demand for aircraft carriers by our combatant commanders around the world is absolutely relentless. I want to promise you that this crew stands ready to continue this successful tradition.”

Kuzmick will report to Commander Navy Region Northwest.

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