Archives for category: Personnel

Story by MCSN Carla Ocampo
Photo by MC3 Lex Wenberg

Junior Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are getting the opportunity to be leaders within their command through the Junior Enlisted Association (JEA). JEA was created by a group of motivated Sailors looking to make a difference. It is the first association for junior Sailors aboard Stennis.

“A group of Sailors and I noticed that there was no junior representation on board and thought it would be great to establish JEA,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Henry Nguyen, JEA president. “Junior enlisted make up a majority of Sailors aboard.”

JEA was established to give back to the crew and community, and improve morale.

“We have many fundraisers planned,” said Nguyen. “November is men’s health awareness month and we are raising money for organizations.”

JEA was only established a couple of months ago and already more than 80 Sailors have joined. “We’re still looking for motivated Sailors who want to make a difference,” said Nguyen. “All junior Sailors are welcome to attend meetings.”

Aside from fundraisers JEA is a great opportunity to develop leadership skills and responsibility explained Nguyen. Members of the JEA can serve as mentors to new check-ins making a difference in a Sailor’s life.

“The association is good for putting the junior enlisted voice out there,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Marlon Squires, JEA vice president. “All the activities we plan on being involved in are positives steps to advancing ourselves both professionally and personally while in the Navy.”

JEA is a fun way for junior Sailors to give back to the command while developing essential skills. Sailors interested in being a part of JEA can contact Nguyen for more information.

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Story by MC3 Kevin Murphy
Photo by MC2 Walter Wayman

Sailors going to the 5th fleet area of operations can anticipate an increased operational tempo, hot weather, and greater danger, but they can also look forward to more money in their pockets.

Beginning September 15, Stennis Sailors are scheduled to receive Combat Zone Tax Exclusion Pay, and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay.

With tax exclusion pay, Sailors are exempt from paying taxes on their base pay and will also receive $225 a month in hostile fire imminent danger pay.

“The tax-free pay goes into effect as soon as we enter the fifth fleet,” said Personnel Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Scott Hitchcock, Administration department’s military pay customer service leading petty officer. “If we serve in a designated combat zone for at least one day, we are entitled to federal tax exclusion for the whole month. So we will get reimbursed the money we pay in federal taxes for September in our October paychecks.”

Each tax-free paycheck that a Sailor receives will not be averaged into their annual income when they file their tax returns. Hitchcock said this will put Sailors in a lower tax bracket and potentially give them the opportunity to receive a more lucrative tax return.

The tax exemption includes selective re-enlistment bonuses (SRB). Sailors who reenlist in the designated combat zone will not pay federal taxes for an SRB.

“For example, if a Sailor reenlists for a bonus of $40,000 and they receive $20,000 up front and the rest in allotments, they won’t pay taxes on any of it,” said Hitchcock. Even if they don’t receive the allotments until after we exit the combat danger zone.”

Some Sailors are excited about getting more money and are making plans on what to do with a little extra dough.

“The money we will receive is a blessing,” said Hitchcock. “It’s a great opportunity to save up a nice chunk of change. I am going to save my money and take my family on vacation when I get back to the states.”

“I am definitely going to save my money for a new car,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Sylvester Jones. “I think getting paid the extra money is important because there is a possibility we can get hurt in a danger zone, and it motivates Sailors to do their job more efficiently while they work under strenuous circumstances.”

The imminent danger pay is categorized under special pay on a Sailor’s leave and earning statement (LES).

Getting paid more money for being in the Arabian Gulf and operating in a danger zone is one way the government compensates Sailors for the sacrifice and service they give their country day in and day out.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chablis J. Torrence

As USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) prepares to get underway for deployment, Sailors will have to leave their families behind; however, families won’t be left alone.

John C. Stennis Family Readiness Group (FRG) provides family members of Stennis Sailors with information and emotional support while the ship is underway.

“The FRG is a very important part of the military family,” said Tricia Clark, president of Stennis’ FRG. “I think that it is vital to the families while the ship is deployed and it is equally important when the ship is home.”

The FRG works with families to enhance family readiness for deployment and help them adjust to lifestyle challenges.

“I know how hard a deployment can be, so I believe the FRG is wonderful for Navy families,” said Jennifer Stanton, secretary of Stennis’ FRG.

The FRG offers help through a variety of committees such as welcoming, helping hands, fundraising, and social committee.

Each committee has a specific mission such as the helping hands committee, which helps families during difficult times by organizing meals for families, help with childcare in emergency situations, and making visits to the hospital. Committees are only one of the ways the FRG reaches out to families.

“Through the group’s meetings, website and Facebook page, they have really reached out to the family members and ensured they have the opportunity to support one another, especially while the ship is away from home,” said Stennis’ Command Master Chief (AW/SW/SS) Stan Jewett.

When a family member has a question about a Sailor, they can contact the FRG. The FRG then contacts the command to get an accurate answer without violating operational security.

“The FRG handles things at their level,” said Yeoman 3rd Class (SW) Tyree Crutchfield, the command master chief’s executive assistant. “They help keep us focused on the mission.”

Knowing that the FRG is there for their families can help Sailors feel better while deployed because they know their families are taken care of. The FRG is there to assist in times of personal and unit crisis.

“Family readiness is a cornerstone of the Navy’s war fighting readiness, a strong family support structure enables Sailors to serve and excel,” said Rear Adm. Michael J. Browne, director of personnel readiness.

While providing families with information, the FRG promotes friendship and mutual support among members.

The FRG puts social events together such as holiday parties, children’s parties, and other activities so families can connect with other families in the same situation.

“It’s so important that our Sailors’ family members know where to go when they need help, and the FRG is there to provide some of that support,” said Jewett.

Families can register with the FRG to receive updates on events by emailing their Sailor’s information to jcsfrg@yahoo.com, or for more information visit jcsfrg.org.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Aguirre

Stennis passed a Supply Management Inspection (SMI) with an outstanding grade June 4, which resulted in inspectors awarding Navy Achievement Medals and coins to more than 20 Sailors.

Every 18 months, Stennis’ supply department goes through an SMI, in which a team of inspectors checks to see if the supply department is up to standards in all areas of responsibility.

Supply department is responsible for crew essentials such as the galleys, laundry and ship’s mail. They also manage morale-boosting amenities, such as ship’s stores, vending machines and the barber shop. Hazmat and stock control also fall under supply department’s jurisdiction.

The SMI team visited the ship June 2-4 to inspect all supply divisions and make sure food and stock materials were accounted for.

“Supply and all of the divisions have been preparing for SMI since we got out of the shipyard in December,” said Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Glenda Atwood (SW/AW), S-2’s leading chief petty officer.

SMI was just another hurdle for supply department. Last year, supply helped provide Stennis with needed consumables during PIA, earning the 2010 Edward F. Ney award.

Supply department had a supply management assessment two months prior to SMI to help prepare them for the inspection. During that time, they assessed areas needing improvement and worked to correct discrepancies.

“We worked 16 hour days,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Nicholas Zaricor, aft galley watch captain. “We had many heavy field days, while making sure our equipment was operational and safe, and made sure everything was up to date on our admin side.”

After two days of inspections, supply received a passing grade in all areas from cleanliness to admin.

“It’s a huge relief, a weight off our shoulders, but even though the inspection is over our standards have to remain at the same level,” said Zaricor.

“We are the heart beat and morale of the ship,”

Supply’s performance during SMI displays their ability to support the crew with services and ameneties which enhance the quality of life for all hands. Stennis is currently underway for Joint Task Force Training Exercise in preparation for deployment.

MC3 Lex T. Wenberg
Capt. Dale Horan welcomes Cmdr. Todd Glasser on the flight deck after the aerial change of command ceremony.
The Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 performed an aerial change of command ceremony above Stennis during which Cmdr. Todd Glasser relieved Cmdr. Jeffrey Vorce as commanding officer of HSM-71 yesterday.
Vorce, a Chula Vista, California native, says his achievements as commander stem from those he worked with in the squadron.
“The biggest success we’ve had recently is the integration into Air Wing 9,” said Vorce. “The air wing here is second to none.”
Vorce oversaw the squadron through the deployment workup phase up to and including the composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which enables the air wing and the strike group function as a whole.
Captain Dale E. Horan, Commander, Carrier Air Wing 9, presented Vorce with the Meritorious Service Award in recognition of his achievements in command of (HSM) 71 at the reception and cake-cutting
ceremony after the in-flight portion.
“The upcoming deployment is going to be amazing,” said Vorce. “I think it’s going to be incredibly successful. And I think you’ll continue to see the Raptors, Stennis and the four destroyers that we support from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21; USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105), and USS Pinckney (DDG 91) continue to do amazing things.”
Glasser, a Concordville, Penn. native, takes command of the Raptors following a tour providing Counter-Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RC-IED) services to the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.
“I’m very excited for deployment,” said Glasser. “These guys have been great. The crew has hit it out of the park.”
Glasser said he feels challenged by the opportunity to lead the Raptors.
“The team has set a really high bar in demonstrating what the air wing’s capable of,” said Glasser.
John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is out to sea and beginning the Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) which integrates the strike group with the other services in preparation for deployment.

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 2, 2011) Commanding Officer Cmdr. Todd Glasser departs his MH-60R Knighthawk from the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 after his aerial change of command aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is conducting a Joint Task Force Exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Kenneth Abbate/Released)


Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Hetherington
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Benjamin Crossley

It’s the third leading killer of service members, but coping programs, medical treatment and shipmate intervention have kept it off the John C. Stennis deck plates.

Suicide claimed the lives of 46 Sailors in 2009, and 38 last year, according to statistics published on Navy Personnel Command’s website. This number is low when compared with the fleet’s 430,000 active duty and ready reserve Sailors, but suicide prevention is a Navy priority.

“Every life matters, every Sailor counts, and every shipmate is needed to help,” said Stennis’ Staff Chaplain Lt. Robert Wills.

Stennis Sailors can help prevent suicide by following three basic steps.

The Navy’s Ask, Care, Treat (ACT) program promotes helping individuals who may be contemplating suicide.

“It’s okay to ask, ‘Are you feeling suicidal?’” said Wills. “It’s actually giving the person an opportunity to speak about what they’re feeling. Care means allowing them to talk through the difficulties they’re having.”

The last step, treat, suggests getting a suicidal Sailor the help they need from a qualified source, like a chaplain or psychologist.

“If you see something out of the ordinary with a shipmate, ask them what’s going on,” suggests Lt. Darcy Sowards, Stennis psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator. “Report any extraordinary behavior to the chain of command, to Medical Department or to a chaplain. If there’s concern, it’s best to act on it, not ignore it.”

This Sailor-to-Sailor intervention is possible as shipmates work together on a day-to-day basis and can recognize when something is wrong.

“No matter where you are, there are people who have a sense of hopelessness,” said Wills. “It’s hopelessness with finances


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Aguirre
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

“Down! – Honor! Down! – Courage! Down!” is the sound often heard in hangar bay one as a group of Sailors are led in physical training (PT) by one of the most athletic-looking men on the ship who always seems to be wearing PT gear.

The buff, fit-looking man who motivates USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Sailors to give it their all during PT is Joshua Burkhard, better known around Stennis as the “Fit Boss.”

Burkhard has been the fitness guru aboard Stennis for nearly three years, having joined the ship in 2008.

After having spent more than eight years working with clients from small children and the morbidly obese to professional and Olympic class athletes, Burkhard decided to come to Stennis to help those who defend our country meet their fitness goals.

“You guys sacrifice so much,” said Burkhard. “I really wanted to give back for all you do for me and for our freedom.”

Since being aboard, Burkhard has started many programs which promote fitness and get Sailors motivated like the “Lift the Stennis” program.

“This program is made to get people used to exercising,” said Burkhard. “Sailors keep track of how much weight they’ve lifted, which includes body weight. At the end of each workout, they add up the weight used for each and every repetition and record the total weight lifted per session. Keep adding that up and you’ll have lifted a Super Hornet, a submarine, or even the John C. Stennis.”

Fit Boss also helps Sailors meet their fitness goals by assisting them with nutrition guides and food diaries, and by conducting fitness classes like the Total Resistance Exercise (TRX), and cycling classes. After a growing request from the crew, tactical yoga was added to the list.

“Tactical yoga is like regular yoga, except we focus more on relaxation and stress relief” said Burkhard. “After a long day of working on the deck plates, this class helps you slow down and take time to breathe.”

After all the time the Fit Boss has spent motivating and helping Stennis stay fit, he sums up all his advice with his favorite motto: “The only limits are the ones you set on yourself.”

Story and photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Murphy

The Navy is implementing an Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) due to high retention and overmanning in certain rates.

The purpose of the ERB is to reduce overmanning in 31 ratings projected to be more than 103 percent manned in fiscal year 2012 and rebalance rates to increase advancement opportunities for high performing Sailors.

“We are attracting and retaining the highest quality force we’ve ever had and these Sailors are increasingly looking at the Navy as a great long-term career choice,” said Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson in an April 25 interview. “With this sustained high retention, systems designed to help maintain the balance in our force, particularly Perform-to Serve, have become over-burdened. As a result, re-enlistment and advancement opportunities for our high performing Sailors are being negatively impacted Fleet-wide.”

The Navy will examine the performance of roughly 16,000 Sailors and will release about 3,000 Sailors from overmanned rates such as Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel), Operation Specialist and Ship’s Servicemen.

Sailors in pay grades E4 through E8 with at least seven years of active service computed from their active duty service date and less than 15 years of service will be reviewed by ERB.

After May 16, 2011, individual Sailors will be able to view their own board profile sheets at the NavyAdvancementCenter page on Navy Knowledge Online.

“Sailors are responsible for ensuring the information contained in their record is correct,” said Chief Navy Counselor (SW/AW) Jean-Hero Lamy. “If the information in the record is not up to date, Sailors can submit a letter with the latest information and added information about themselves.”

Factors which will determine non-retention include a Sailor’s declining performance, removal of security clearance when required by rating, and military or civilian convictions.

“The good thing is everybody in the overmanned ratings has an opportunity to convert to undermanned ratings by June 15,” said Lamy.

“I am thinking about converting to Navy Counselor,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 2nd Class (AW/ SW) Justin Delpalacio, who qualifies for the ERB.

“When I heard about the review board, it lit a light bulb over my head.”

The ERB for E4 and E5 convenes Aug. 22 and the ERB for E6 through E8 will meet Sept. 26.

Each board will be composed of a flag officer, officers and master chiefs. Senior chiefs and chiefs will serve as recorders.

“I want to re-enlist,” said Delpalacio. “The review board scares me. I am a little worried. There are people reviewing us who never worked with us. It could be an advantage for me or a disadvantage.”

In late fall, Stennis’ commanding officer Capt. Ronald Reis should be notified by NAVADMIN once the names of Sailors not selected for retention have been posted on BUPERS online (BOL).

For more information about the ERB, contact a departmental career counselor or refer to NAVADMIN 129/11.


Story & Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Heather Seelbach

Career counselors aboard Stennis are encouraging Sailors to familiarize themselves with Perform to Serve (PTS), a Navy force shaping tool used to control manning levels that ultimately determines whether Sailors are able to reenlist.

The PTS process begins with a career development board (CDB) 13 months from a Sailor’s End of Active Obligated Service (EAOS). During the CDB, a PTS request is filled out. The completed form is submitted into Fleetride along with the Sailor’s Physical Fitness Assessments (PFAs), last five evaluations and results from any Non Judicial Punishments (NJPs), if applicable. The Sailor is competing with other Sailors from their year group, and PTS results come out once a month.

“Getting in trouble, (PFA) failures, or any other blip in their record will put Sailors lower in the ranking, potentially affecting their opportunities for PTS approval,” said Navy Career Counselor 1st Class (SW/AW) Brenda Chavez, one of Stennis’ Command Career Counselors. “Currently, even EP Sailors are having a difficult time getting PTS approval because of the year group they came in and the manning levels.”

Sustained superior performance helps Sailors make the cut, said Chavez. Sailors must strive to make themselves stand out in order to maximize career opportunities and stay competitive in today’s Navy.

Leadership can assist Sailors by keeping them informed of policy changes. Informed Sailors are better prepared and have more options when it comes to deciding whether or not they will reenlist, said Stennis Command Career Counselor, Chief Navy Career Counselor (SW/AW) Jacqueline Moise.

“Conducting career development boards within their schedule (at six months, 12 months, one year, and every consecutive year thereafter) is essential to preparing Sailors for their PTS window,” said Moise. “If a Sailor has a low ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) score, it should be addressed during the initial CDB. During that time, it should be recommended that the Sailor retake the ASVAB before he is in his PTS window.”

PTS can be a lengthy process and accuracy of information is vital. Career counselors can advise Sailors on the proper steps to maximize potential PTS approval.

“I make sure evaluation inputs are correct and all the information is updated and current,” said Air Department’s Career Counselor, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class (AW/SW) Sofia Gonzalez. “I also tell my Sailors that if they want a better chance of getting picked up they should choose the ‘in-rate but willing to convert’ option on the PTS application.”
Although a Sailor gets six looks (chances) for PTS approval, the third non-selection, or rollover, prompts an additional CDB and re-submission of the PTS form.

“Aboard Stennis, a career development board is conducted for any Sailor who has been rolled over three times,” said Gonzalez. “Sailors in this situation are advised to consider rate conversion, depending on available quotas, and are informed about available programs. For example, selective reserves, separation, Transition Assistance Program Class, the Blue to Green program, and college opportunities under the Post 9-11 GI Bill.”

Like other Navy force shaping tools, ‘Perform to Serve’ is here to stay and Sailors should take accountability of their own careers if they want to stay Navy.


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Stennis Sailors will be reaching out to shipmates on the mess decks until Apr. 9.

Stennis’ Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) representatives hope to create a culture of awareness by providing various types of information and services to Stennis Sailors.

“A lot of Sailors have an attitude that sexual assault will not happen to them because they don’t put themselves in a situation that would make them a victim,” said Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AW/SW) Richard Stepp, a SAPR victim advocate. “Our goal is to inform Sailors that it can happen at any time to any individual and that if it does SAPR representatives are there to help.”

The SAPR display, located on the aft mess decks adjacent to the scullery, offers a wide range of statistics of sexual assaults in the services.

“The statistics show that reports of sexual assaults are increasing,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class (SW/AW) Larry Wells, another SAPR victim advocate. “This means that the work we are doing is actually making a difference because more people are coming forward. By bringing our information out on the mess decks we hope to spread awareness and let people know they’ve got somewhere to turn if they are sexually assaulted.”

Stepp says that alcohol is often involved in incidents of sexual assault and encourages Sailors to visit the display and learn more about what they can do to protect themselves.

“As far as prevention goes, we need every single person to be aware that sexual assault is a real problem in the military and on this ship,” said Stennis’ SAPR Coordinator Chief Fire Controlman (SW/ AW) Sarah Mount. “By making sure Sailors are using alcohol responsibly, using the buddy system and holding each other accountable, we hope to lower the risk of sexual assaults happening.”

Sailors can also receive key chains with the SAPR victim’s advocate hotline and sign up to become a SAPR advocate themselves at the display.

By providing Sailors with information about sexual assaults and ways they can avoid becoming a victim, Stennis’ SAPR advocates are doing their part to protect their shipmates on and off the ship.

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